"Our vision for Skitch hasn't changed at all," Evernote CEO Phil Libin insists, "and the core beliefs of its founders are lined up with ours." Yet, plenty of Skitch users are upset with a recent update to the app that removed some well-loved features like instant uploads and added long, ungainly Evernote URLs in place of Skitch's short links. "We did a full rewrite of Skitch, and we didn't take anything out — there's just some stuff we haven't put in yet," Libin says. Evernote acquired Skitch back in August 2011, and has slowly been integrating the two popular applications.
But he isn't worried. "We have to draw some lines and ask 'What is Evernote not?' and 'What is Skitch not?'" he says. The company works using all its own products and caters them to its workflow, whether you like it or not. "Skitch has never been and is not about to start being a drawing tool. People want multiple brush types... and photo editing tools like dodge and burn... but that's very low priority for us." A bigger priority is highlighting the app's key feature, which to Libin is simply pointing at things. He's right that pointing and annotating images is key, but users have thus far been accustomed to more functionality from the app. Some of the missing features will be back in future updates, Libin says, like an upcoming menu bar icon that consolidates Skitch and Evernote. Other features like short URLs are perceived to be less secure and likely aren't coming back.
"We want to be the antidote for 20 years of passive aggressive emails."
"We get feedback, but we don't think the world needs another MS Paint... We want to be the antidote for 20 years of passive aggressive emails," Libin says. "At our new office they installed the sign wrong so I took a picture on my phone, drew arrows in Skitch, and then told them 'This is what we ordered, and this is what we got.' Instead of having one giant email between me and our designers, we had one Skitch document." Balancing features with simplicity is a problem Libin is quite familiar with, since he has architected apps on just about every platform for screens large and small.
Evernote has traditionally been a private and personal way to store documents, but that's only half of the puzzle, according to Libin. "If Evernote is a single player video game, then Skitch is co-op mode," he says. With its pink heart-shaped logo, Skitch and Evernote sure don't look like two parts of the same game, but it doesn't matter to Libin. "We kept the branding because Skitch is the extroverted brand of Evernote," he says. "If we try to force everything to be consistent, then you end up with the least-common denominator. 'A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,' Churchill once said! Or maybe it was Mark Twain..." Libin seems to visualize a much more qualitative than quantitative criteria for what makes a great app. "The only criteria is excellence!" he exclaims.
A few minutes after our interview, I received an email from Evernote. It turns out the quote was from Emerson. Libin might not always be right, but Evernote's incredible growth seems to illustrate one thing: sound judgment about what users want and more importantly will want. Skitch might not be the app it used to be, but neither is Evernote, and we might just have to live with that. It's Evernote's game we're playing, after all. "We make everything for us," Libin says. "We make products that we want to use everyday to work better and to live better."