Amazon’s Silk Browser: A Peeping Tom Or A Mona Lisa?

This is a guest post from Jesse Langley.

The Kindle Fire is revolutionary because of its price. If you haven’t been told that over and over by a journalist yet, you must be in hiding—my apologies for interrupting that. To catch you up, the Fire is being hailed as the only affordable tablet for college students (that has a shot at being decent), and it’s set to be the next big thing in online learning. Beyond that, people are just excited they can finally afford a tablet if they haven’t already broken down and gotten a $500 iPad.

However, you should also know that the Kindle Fire is revolutionary because it’s essentially an e-commerce site throwing its hat into the developer game.

The Fire does run off of an Android operating system, but it’s been modified beyond recognition. The Amazon Marketplace doesn’t allow for open source apps, so you’re basically getting the best or the best-funded of apps. Just because it’s closed doesn’t mean that you’re not going to have enough choice,
though. The Amazon app store holds over 16,000 different apps. This might pale in comparison to the iPad’s 90,000, but it also means you’re unlikely to not find something you’re looking for. Even if you can’t find the exact Bejeweled knockoff you played on your phone, you’re almost guaranteed to find
another that works just as well.

Amazon has dipped its toe into more than just collecting apps and modifying an operating system, though. They’ve also created an entirely new web browser. Silk is being touted by Amazon as a game changer for web browsers. It uses predictive technology to pre-cache web pages. For example, if the
majority of the people who visit CNN’s home page click through to the sports page, it will cache the data from that page while you read through the headlines on the front page. It will also pre-cache many of the top headlines and other features that are clicked on frequently.

Silk grabs its power partly from the dual core processors and partly from Amazon’s EC2 network. If you’re unfamiliar with that, the Elastic Compute Cloud system is basically part of Amazon’s cloud network. It lets subscribers host their sites on it and the computing power expands or contracts based on site traffic at the time and how much is needed. What it means for Silk is that the web browser will be processing pages with double the power it would use otherwise.

Like any device, there is a price for convenience, of course. There is already a rise in privacy concerns from tech reviewers. Silk will record almost everything you do (remember, it has to collect data for its pre-cache ability). There is the choice to opt out of using the EC2 network, but it will have an effect on browsing speed since you won’t be pre-caching. Since each Kindle Fire is losing Amazon about $10, it’s completely reasonable to ask where they’re expecting to make that money back.

And it already seems that many schools will adopt the device, so privacy concerns become even more legitimate. If the Kindle Fire is just a buying machine, will it help or hurt students who are just learning financial responsibility? College students are especially susceptible to impulse purchases, so it’s important that they understand marketing and online purchases.

The generation rolling through schools right now understands computing and they’re generally skeptical of free offers and too-good-to-be-true bargains. Whether or not they’ll be able to see the risk of a browser knowing exactly what they like remains to be seen.

Whether Silk is a masterpiece or a pair of eyes remains to be seen. All in all, though, Silk is promising. The use of cloud computing in browsers has been a couple years coming, and it’s nice to see one so fully integrated. Amazon didn’t shy away from meshing the two together when they designed the software behind the Fire, and it will hopefully show in a clean, well-presented tablet that takes advantage of the computing power of Amazon.

This is a guest post from Jesse Langley. Jesse lives near Chicago with his family of four. He works as an IT consultant and writes for Technected.

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