Evernote’s Chinese service, Yinxiang Biji, has temporarily disabled its public note feature, a spokesperson confirmed to TechCrunch today. It’s unclear why public notes was taken down or when it will be restored. We’ve asked the company for more information. Yinxiang Biji (a separate service launched by Evernote especially for China) users can continue sharing and collaborating notes using its Work Chat feature or email.
Unless Yinxiang Biji (which means “memory notebook”) confirms that it disabled the public note feature because of an order from the government, it’s difficult to say for certain if it is related to censorship because the Cyberspace Administration of China, the state agency in charge of Internet regulation, usually does not announce when it blocks a site or service.
The disabling of Yinxiang Biji’s public note feature is interesting, however, because the tool was used to share news articles, editorials, and other information about last fall’s pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, leading to speculation that it may become an important way to circumvent censorship.
Furthermore, while Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have already been blocked in China for years, the government appears to have stepped up regulation of foreign Internet services over the past year. In June, for example, access to several Google services and apps were cut off before the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Last month, Gmail appeared to be blocked in China, before access was partially restored. Instagram was also reportedly blocked in China after the Hong Kong demonstrations.
With 11.5 million users in the country, China is currently Evernote’s second-largest market. While it’s difficult for foreign Internet companies to make inroads into China because of censorship, Evernote managed to succeed because its service is mostly intended for personal notetaking instead of social sharing. But the disabling of its public note feature shows that the company may be subject to more stringent government regulations as its popularity increases.