Why Evernote won’t die

Evernote is interesting. It’s a bad product. It’s UI is both non-functional and ugly. It’s expensive and makes it difficult to cancel a subscription. It’s advertising is lacklustre and generic. I would expect it to have been wiped out. Instead, instead it has millions of users. Why? Maybe it’s because a monopoly position is difficult to upend? Problem is, it really doesn’t look like Evernote has a hard monopoly. It’s software. Barriers to entry are low, anyone can make a note-taking app, regulation is non-existent and there are no network effects or other enablers of natural monopoly which lock in customers or limit competition. Even the sunk costs of having your notes in Evernote isn’t really a sunk costs as notes can be transferred across platforms. Why then are there no good alternatives smashing Evernote into the ground? I think it’s because making a better Evernote is easy but making a much better Evernote is very, very hard and as Peter Thiel said, new products can’t be just a bit better than what’s out there, they have to be drastically better. Anything less and customers have too little incentive to switch. Anything less and your growth cure isn’t steep enough to overtake the big players before they wise up and eat you alive.

Pocket represents a revolutionary improvement on evernotes web-clipping feature and for the “save interesting articles to read later, share with friends and archive to look back on in years time” use case it’s a revolutionary improvement on Evernote. For the “Writing stuff down and organising it so that you can actually find it later” use case, Evernote’s competitors are better, but not better enough. Bear is good, but it’s fundamentally the same idea and flow with only UI tweaks setting it apart. Ditto for simpleNote and the like. I think a good note-taking app is a startup idea worth exploring further, especially given the size and stagnation of the market. I’m not sure entering a crowded market is a good thing but hey, neither is entering one where no one wants to be

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