Vesper 2.0 and Vesper Sync

May 27, 2014 by

Today we released Vesper 2.0, which introduces our new sync system, which we’re calling Vesper Sync.

We’ve tried to make it as easy and simple as possible to use. Here’s how it works. First, you create a Vesper Sync account using an email address and a password. Then, your Vesper data — the text of your notes, your image attachments, your tags, everything — syncs to our cloud service. Sign in using the same account on another device, and your Vesper data will appear on that device.

That’s it.

There is no charge. No subscription. You just create an account using your email address as your identity and it works. I’m as suspicious of a free lunch as the next guy — probably more so, in fact. But Vesper Sync is not a free lunch, because Vesper is not a free app. Sync should be a feature, not something you have to pay extra for.

Back in September, I announced that sync was the next big thing we were going to tackle:

Also: syncing is a notoriously difficult problem to solve. There is no easy way. From the outside, it may seem as simple as “Just use _____”, where the blank is iCloud or Dropbox or Azure or S3 or anything else. From the inside, every option we have presents hurdles, limitations, and a ton of work. […]

How long is it going to take? We don’t know. I’m going to say a year. I know what you’re thinking: What? A year! I’m sure sync is hard but a year sounds crazy. That’s nuts. And you’re right, that does sound crazy. If I were to tell you what I honestly thought, I’d tell you I think it’s going to take several months. But I don’t want to disappoint you, so let’s stick with “a year” and hope that we can unveil it months ahead of schedule, instead of months behind.

That was exactly eight months ago to the day. I could joke and say that means we’ve shipped four months ahead of schedule, but it’s actually not that much of a joke. Sync really is hard. I was about to write that Brent has spent more time developing Vesper Sync than on Vesper itself, but that’s the wrong way to look at it. Vesper Sync is part of Vesper. In today’s world, an “app” is often no longer just the executable binary running on your device — it’s the entire experience of using it, including code running (and data stored) in the cloud.

Our goal for Vesper Sync was to achieve excellence in every way: performance, reliability, security, and privacy. Only time will tell if we’ve succeeded, but I feel confident that we have. From our privacy policy, which I encourage everyone to read in its entirety:

We take security seriously, and use several measures to protect your data. To start, all communication between the app and our sync servers takes place using HTTPS. Passwords are never stored on our servers. Instead, passwords are hashed and salted. If you ever forget your password, we cannot send it to you; you will need to reset it. Passwords are stored on your device, in the keychain.

The text of all notes is stored encrypted on the server. Tags, attachments, and other data and metadata are not encrypted. Though it’s theoretically possible for Q Branch to read the decrypted note text or view image data, we don’t have a mechanism in place to do that, and we won’t create a mechanism unless legally ordered.

What’s Next

When we shipped Vesper 1.0 a year ago, the sharpest criticism we faced was, An iPhone notes app that doesn’t sync to the cloud? This year, with Vesper 2.0, I’m sure the sharpest criticism will be, What’s the point of sync if Vesper is only an iPhone app?

And that’s valid. At this point, Vesper Sync is effectively more of a backup service than a sync service. You can run Vesper on an iPad, though. An iPhone app running on an iPad is far from optimal, but it is something. But the simple truth is that Vesper Sync is an essential first step to a world where there are multiple Vesper clients.

We have several ideas for future Vesper clients, but we’ve decided which one we’re going to tackle next: Mac. We did the iPhone version first because the iPhone is the one device you have with you everywhere, and we remain convinced that was the correct decision. Ubiquity is essential to a notes app. The Mac, though, is the device where we’re most productive.

How long will it take? I don’t know. For one thing, much will depend on what Apple unveils next week at WWDC. But we’ll document our progress as we go, with Brent’s engineering diary at Inessential and here on the Vesper blog.

You have to walk before you can run; with Vesper 2.0 and Vesper Sync under our belts, we’re ready to run.