It probably isn’t a surprise that a giant company like Amazon has developed their own browser – after all, they have also developed their own version of Android, called Fire OS.
It’s unlikely you’ll have come into contact with this browser unless you have an Amazon device (Kindle, Fire tablet, Fire TV or Echo Show) – but we’ll be taking a look at it today to see how it works.
Amazon’s Silk browser is usually available simply as a tile named “internet” on its devices – This browser is only officially available on Amazon devices running Android or FireOS (Amazon’s version of Android). Designed to be user-friendly, Amazon’s browser actually has some interesting technology behind it.
Because much of Amazon’s computing power is using cloud-based systems, they have decided to leverage this to provide a benefit to their users.
The browser uses a technology called Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) to shift some of the processing load from the device the browser is running on to its much more powerful servers. The intended effect is that handling it this way means that it should work more efficiently on lower-powered devices, as the device itself is not responsible for handling the full workload; rather, this is shifted onto Amazon’s servers.
Although this might sound quite novel, it is a new implementation of a method that has been tried before (on Opera). The caveat is that the data is not fully processed on your device – you need to be aware of and comfortable with Amazon handling all of your data on their servers, which many people are not.
Of course, there is the option to switch off the Amazon EC2 service, but then Silk just becomes a rather lacking regular chromium-based browser, albeit a built-in one.
One of the main issues brought to the fore with this concept is that you have really no way of knowing how your data is being stored and handled by a company once it’s off your device (other than what they tell you). While some people might be comfortable knowing that all of their secure data is first being processed through Amazon’s servers (everything from messages to online banking), many more will definitely not be. That is not to say they have been found to be doing anything nefarious with user data (they have their own standards and data protection laws still apply) – but many people would be understandably uncomfortable giving a single company access to all of their information in such a way.
Because Amazon’s servers often cache content in order to serve it to users faster and more efficiently, you could also potentially be getting an outdated version of the page – or a compressed version. The technology allows Amazon to compress files to save on bandwidth for itself and its users – but unfortunately this doesn’t take into account that sometimes, you may want the full resolution image or the large, uncompressed version of a file.
While we wouldn’t recommend Silk right now, it’s easy to see why this might be a useful feature to have in future, though, if privacy concerns and caching issues were addressed – moving some of the heavier processing load from devices themselves into the cloud is something we are seeing more of now in other services, and will most likely be something we see more of in future.