Amazon’s Kindle Fire Silk Browser

Other than the low price (only $199?!) and the fact that Google is getting absolutely nothing out of Amazon’s use of Android, I couldn’t really bring myself to caring too much about the Kindle Fire (Apple and/or Microsoft patent lawsuit in 3… 2… 1), but there is one aspect that intrigued me – Amazon’s beefing up of what at its core is Opera Mini.

The browser on Amazon’s Kindle Fire is interesting because it basically does what Opera has been doing for a long time (and BlackBerry too, if I’m not mistaken) – render websites on the internet in the cloud (sorry, this was getting confusing – I have to use the buzzword here) so the local rendering engine doesn’t have to do as much.

“Instead of a device-siloed software application, Amazon Silk deploys a split-architecture. All of the browser subsystems are present on your Kindle Fire as well as on the AWS cloud computing platform. Each time you load a web page, Silk makes a dynamic decision about which of these subsystems will run locally and which will execute remotely,” the Amazon Silk team explains, “In short, Amazon Silk extends the boundaries of the browser, coupling the capabilities and interactivity of your local device with the massive computing power, memory, and network connectivity of our cloud.”

Of course, this raises a whole bunch of red flags when it comes to privacy. Basically, Amazon will be storing all the sites you visit in its cloud, effectively maintaining a lengthy log of all your online activities. This is the holy grail of advertising, and you can bet your sweet bum that Amazon will be exploiting this opportunity. Not only for itself (i.e., suggesting items from Amazon’s own store), but of course also selling it to third parties.

Jon Jenkins, director of platform analysis at Amazon, told TechWorld that Amazon will not store personal information – but Silk’s terms and conditions tell a different story.

Luckily, the browser does have a no-cloud mode (probably built-in in case the Amazon servers go down), and you can turn it on to have all rendering done locally. Rendering, by the way, which is done using the WebKit engine, through SPDY (HTTP is still used between the website and Amazon’s cloud). There’s also hints of being able to use Amazon Silk on non-Kindle devices too, suggesting Amazon may be bringing this technology to other devices – Android phones maybe, or maybe even desktops and laptops.

This might just be me, but wouldn’t it be possible to do something like this locally? I mean, wouldn’t it be possible to have the portion currently running on Amazon’s cloud running at home, on your powerful desktop? My quad-core 8GB workstation would be perfect for the job – have the workstation render the complex bits only to send it on to my iPad 2 and Windows Phone. This would sidestep any privacy issues, and while it wouldn’t be very useful out and about, the fact of the matter is that the Kindle Fire doesn’t have 3G anyway so that point is a bit moot.

Seems like a nice enough idea to warrant some discussion, I suppose?


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