Evernote: A Case Study

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By Jieshu Wang and Mariana Leyton Escobar


Evernote’s Home Screen: “Remember Everything”

Evernote is cross-platform app designed for note taking, organization, and archiving.

As a cognitive artifact

From Evernote’s blog: “Our goal is to improve the lives of everyone around the world by giving them a second brain and a perfect memory.”

Things you can do with Evernote: notes taking (text, image, & audio), record thoughts, manage lists, collect articles…


Evernote information model, from a user’s perspective

  • From an individual view, Evernote changes the nature of tasks.
  • From a system view, Evernote enhances the performance of the system of human and Evernote.

As a modular system


Evernote high level architecture

Evernote high level architecture

  1. Shards (Pre-Google era):
    1. Modules for storage: 1 shard for 100,000 users. Each as an island, with no cross-talk or dependencies.
    2. Physical structure: 2 two SuperMicro boxes + 2 Intel Processors + RAM + Seagate drives + RAID configurations
  2. Hub-and-spoke centralized structure:
    1. Hub: web servers
    2. spoke: your devices
  3. Networking: through HTTPS port 443
    1. all “web” activities
    2. all client synchronization via Thrift-based service APIs (Evernote is a module in the whole Internet)
  4. Modular Data Structure
    1. UserStore
    2. NoteStore
    3. Each has more modules in them. Interfaces (arrow lines, UserStore Service & NoteStore Service)
  5. Business layer & organization
    1. servers in Google (also modular)
    2. app development in Evernote
  6. Set up separate companies to deal with specific issues
    1. Evernote GmbH in Switzerland to manage data (with two data centers on the west coast of US)
    2. Yinxiang Biji for China




From a consumer’s point of view, synchronization is a process through which files in different locations or devices are updated to the same latest versions.

How to sync?

  1. Each NoteStore object has two identifiers:
    1. A globally unique identifier (GUID): unique
    2. An update sequence number (USN) : increase when change
  2. Protocol: Evernote Data Access and Management (EDAM) is a protocol for exchanging
  3. Evernote data with the Evernote service.
  4. Each Evernote account has a variable called updateCount. it is the highest USN.
  5. Sync type: full & incremental
  6. steps: serials of functions

As a socio-technical system

Marketing strategies can be telling

Looking for users offline


And online.blog_image_vivo_final-1


Evernote’s partner in Brazil is Vivo, local branch of Spain’s Telefonica


Samsung was another partner through its Galaxy Note Phablet


Legal agreement between user, Evernote, and now Google

Data storage presents a challenge for services that store data for users. Evernote announced recently the choice to switch from having their own servers to hiring storage service (cloud service) with Google.


The choice for this particular cloud service on top of others has to do with Google’s Machine Learning tools.


And legal agreements have to do with how data is handled too, for which Evernote, on top of a range of legal information, lists its Three laws of Data Protection

Evernote's 3 Laws of Data Protection

Evernote’s 3 Laws of Data Protection

And link to Google’s.

Both companies explain they have to respond to law enforcement data requests but that they are stringent in accepting the request. Both produce transparency reports (though these are limited in how much data they can share).

Business strategies

 Yinxiang Biji (印象笔记)

Yinxiang Biji (印象笔记)

A separate app to work better with the Chinese Internet, A separate company and a separate data center located in China.

  • Political factors
    • banned public notes and notebooks
    • no allow to share to Facebook and Twitter
    • avoid to lose the whole Chinese market due
    • to migrating to Google Cloud
  • business factors
    • Payment method: Alipay, WeChat Pay
    • Social media: Sina Weibo, WeChat, Douban
    • Chinese customer support
    • Chinese APIs