September 29, 2011
A new browser called ‘Silk’ in Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet will use cloud power to speed content delivery
Amazon.com is using its cloud-based business computing platform to bolster its consumer electronics devices, equipping its new Kindle Fire tablet with a new mobile web browser called Silk.
Web browsing is a challenging task for today’s mobile browsers, as there is a lot of network latency for various page assets that require multiple requests.
Amazon said a typical web page requires 80 files from 13 different domains. Couple that with the time the data traverses the network pipes and that confluence of processing activity bogs down web page rendering and adds seconds to page load times.
Silk uses a split browser paradigm that leverages Amazon’s Elastic Computer Cloud (EC2) web services cloud computing software. Silk lives on both the Kindle Fire and EC2 to boost the web page processing, using a complex prioritisation model to help resolve web content faster for users.
Anytime users browse the web on the Kindle Fire, they are tapping into Amazon’s cloud of thousands of servers and fat, network data pipes. Every time users click on a web page from the Fire, EC2 handles the rendering and provides it to the Fire on demand. Silk is a sort of limitless cache that doesn’t require data to reside on the Fire.
“Amazon Web Services has peering relationships with major Internet service providers, and many top sites are hosted on EC2,” Amazon explained. “This means that many web requests will never leave the extended infrastructure of AWS, reducing transit times to only a few milliseconds.”
While this seems easy enough in theory, there is a lot going on in the background, as the process takes into account network conditions, page complexity and cached content location. Amazon’s Silk team explained the process in more detail in this video.
The idea is to accelerate consumer access to Amazon’s array of content services, including Amazon Instant Video streaming movies and TV shows, Amazon Cloud Player streaming music service, Amazon’s Kindle bookstore and applications served from Amazon’s Android Appstore. The faster Amazon can speed users to their content of choice, the more content they can consume.
Moreover, Silk can improve with usage on the Kindle Fire. The browser tracks page characteristics by aggregating the results of millions of web pages that has loaded, and stores that information in the cloud on EC2 to accelerate content delivery. The browser also uses collaborate filtering to enable product recommendations.
Noting that split browser architecture is not new – Opera uses the same approach for its Mini mobile browser – IDC analyst Al Hilwa called Amazon’s strategy an “interesting spin on the me-too Android software we have seen so far, and possibly a game-changer.
“In one fell swoop Amazon harnesses its commanding lead in cloud services, the content richness of a leading online retailer and its successful Kindle business strategy to deliver what might become one of most effective antidotes to the mobile bandwidth crunch,” Hilwa told eWEEK.
Silk is currently exclusive to the Kindle Fire, which Amazon will begin selling on 15 November for $199.99 (£127). However, it is rumoured that Amazon has a 10-inch model in the pipeline to pump out to users if the 7-inch model sells well. Silk will clearly be part of that launch.