You could smell the self-righteous fuming over the intertubez when Evernote announced changes in their free plans.

Here is a little lesson in human nature. No one likes having something taken away from them by someone else.

It’s easy to predict the reactions:

  • Outright anger from people who used a product for years without paying for it. “How dare they take away something I never paid for”?
  • Immediate digital panic to find alternatives, to jump to another product. How many “here are 8 alternatives to Evernote” posts flew out of the coop? Hurry quick, jump, change, right away NOW NOW NOW.

I do have to say that their approach to doing this has been rather… douchy. Out of the blue getting an email warning me to upgrade or I won’t be able to use the product on more than 2 devices, who the bleep ever thought this would not have pissed off anybody? I hope whatever consultants they hired or internal strategists came up with this are flogged with wet noodles.

If you ever are going to change what you gave out for free, you better toss ’em a bone of some sorts. Like I said, when people have gotten comfortable with your free product, pulling the rug out is going to rile them. Has anyone at Evernote given their kid a toy and then yanked it away? How can you not expect tears?

You better have more than puff like:

Our goal is to continue improving Evernote for the long-term, investing in our core products to make them more powerful and intuitive while also delivering often-requested new features. But that requires a significant investment of energy, time, and money. We’re asking those people who get the most value from Evernote to help us make that investment and, in return, to reap the benefits that result.

It’s my hunch they knew this, and are willing to take pissing off people who never did nor never would give them money. Who needs leeches? Does anyone enjoy freeloaders? They want to roll with the people willing to pay some for the service.

For me it bears more thought than a Brexit level logic stay or go decision. Just saying “swap for One Note or OSX Notes or Jiggly Wiggly Free Note App because it’s still free” is not fully logical– it really depends a lot on how much of Evernotes features you fully use. If its just a place to jot down notes, then heck, go to Google Docs and stop whinging.

While I’ve had Evernote installed on several laptops and mobile devices for years, I have to say my use has been pretty minor. Like almost nil. I have an encrypted note with things like my frequent flier and prescription numbers as a handy place to always have them. I have a few scattered project notes.

I’ve seen people really use it fully. I remember visiting Alec Corous and he showed me how he keeps a bunch of notes on all those YouTube videos he watches, organized in a way he can pull them out easily for his presentations.

But I actually started using it in earnest when I started my new project with Creative Commons, both as a place to organize web sites (I clip with the Evernote tool, but also have an IFTTT recipe to cross post stuff with a certain tag from my pinboard account). I have been taking notes from conversations with folks I have been having, notes on meetings, and each week I have been writing up some bullet summaries of things I did. I have been tagging some notes, and I have a master “uber” note to act as an index.


What works well is to be able to quickly cross link notes. That I can clip stuff easy from the web and add notes. That I can drag and drop images and media. That I can share notes with colleagues.

More or less this is stuff I would trust before to my memory, or if I blogged stuff, or searching email.

sample weekly notes

sample weekly notes

It’s not really blog stuff, just… well notes. But it’s slowly settling into almost a working pattern, one that has helped already to locate references or ideas.

Okay, I could likely do this in any of the “alternative” apps. But there’s a cost of time spent transferring, time spent figuring out a new platform. But I am not quite feeling the imperative.

I also have to say that the 2 device limit is not a crucial blow to me. I only need it on my work laptop and my phone. I don’t need it on my old laptop, and certainly can pull it off my iPad. And since most of my stuff is text, I doubt I will bump into the storage limits. And if I do, well then I may just pay for the service if it is working for me.

Stuff I pay for now is:

  • Flickr Pro well heck, they only store, make searchable, sharable, like 45,000 of my photos over 12 years. And for all the crap flickr gets, when they last did some changes, free accounts got their limits boosted, not cut. The 1 TB for free is huge- I am maybe at 1.4 TB with my paid account.
  • Pinboard because they brought back the simplicity yet insanely functional features to bookmarking, including importing all my stuff that piled up through the decline of del.ici.ous and the sense I never made of diigo. Totally worth it, and the guy behind it is a genius and a crazy thinker… who is currently playing shuffleboard in Antarctica
  • vimeo — well I needed a boost from the free account to share a large family video, and just kept the account at that level, because (a) one day I will get booted from YouTube; and (b) vimeo just seems classier and full of film buffs, not lunatics.

There’s more, but my brain is stalling. If I was organized, I’d have a note for it.

Freemium models are a bit fraught– we all enjoy getting great stuff for free, but somewhere bills need to be paid. And when you take away from something that was free without giving anything in return but words, well… expect a s***storm from the people formerly known as users.

Nothing lasts forever, is the appropriate bumper sticker saying. And when the free rug gets tugged, it bears more thought than impulsive indignation and panic jumps. You might not be losing much, or you might adjust, or you might shrug it off. Or maybe you will come to an understanding of paying for a service instead of always expecting free rides.

Top / Featured Image: This search took a few rounds of thrashing in the search box. I started with one on "not free", and almost went for the Stallman beer glass image for Libre not Gratis, but that was not the message I think I am aiming at. There were a few mime images that might have worked. Then I looked at few on search on "indignant" – still not feeling it.

I got closer with searches on "forever" though a lot were a bit too romantic. Then way down the scroll I got this Creative Commons licensed deviantart image “nothing lasts forever” by purplehaze-gin — perfect, and ironic in the body art metaphor.

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An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. This reminds me that it would probably be a good thing for most people to post, once in a while, about the apps and services we do find value enough in to pay for (invest in). Including the little guys and gals…

  2. I’ve been a paying Evernote user since 2008 or 2009; I love the service, use it daily on multiple devices, and I’ve recommended it to anyone who’ll listen, but I’m not exactly thrilled about the price increase. I definitely need the multiple device sync option, but I think I can get by without the Premium tier moving forward. I’ll probably save myself a few bucks and drop down to the middle-tier option when my current subscription expires in the winter.

    The freemium model certainly carries some risks with it for consumers, but for what it’s worth, I wish at least the current paying customers had been given the opportunity to grandfather in at their existing rate.

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