Evernote launches Chinese service Yinxiang Biji to lure more paying customers

Digital-notebook service Evernote has had a good year. After raising $70 million at a one billion dollar valuation and acquiring handwriting app Penultimate, the company is expanding its services into China. The news comes after it was reported that Evernote is building a data center in Beijing.

Evernote launched Yinxiang Biji 印象笔记, which translates to Memory Notes or Impression Notes, on Thursday in China. The service looks identical to English version of Evernote, but with support for Chinese characters. Chinese versions of Evernote’s Skitch and Hello apps are also available. Yinxiang Biji also offers an API for Chinese developers to integrate Evernote into other applications. Evernote and Yinxiang Biji will be developed in parallel, so any new updates for the main version of Evernote will also get pushed out to Yinxiang Biji.

Evernote already has a million people in China using multi-language Evernote International, but connectivity complaints from users have prompted the company to introduce a dedicated service in China. Existing Evernote users will have the option to port their notebooks to Yinxiang Biji or leave them in the existing Evernote International version.

The move could prove very strategic for Evernote. China is notorious for its strict Internet regulations, something that’s barred Facebook’s, Twitter’s and Google’s plans to expand into that market. The ability to comply with the regulations and establish an Internet presence in China could help Evernote expand its 30 million user base and gain more paying customers.

Since China has strict regulations on socially shared information, there are some censorship and privacy concerns. Evernote chief executive Phil Libin said during a conference that because Evernote is focused more on storing personal information, the service shouldn’t encounter issues from the Chinese government. Libin also wrote in a company blog post that Yinxiang Biji will comply with often-changing regulations, but that under Chinese law the government may be able to view users’ stored content.

Despite already having a presence in China, Evernote has at least one clone. Mknote has a similar look and functionality to Evernote, but focuses more on sharing content. Clones of banned Internet services, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, are quite popular in China and often snatch up millions of users faster in the country than the original non-Chinese services.