Silk: Amazon Gets Into the Browser Game

Chris CrumTechnology

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Amazon isn't only entering the tablet space today with the unveiling of the Kindle Fire. It's also entering the web browser space.

The company unveiled its new browser, which will appear exclusively on the Kindle Fire. It's called Silk. Amazon the name is inspired by the concept that "a thread of silk is an invisible yet incredibly strong connection between two different things".

How clever.

In this case, it's the connection between the Kindle Fire and Amazon EC2. (Elastic Compute Cloud). The browser divides the workload between the mobile hardware and EC2 with each page request, Amazon says. This is supposed to make browsing much faster.

Amazon says that on a recent day, constructing the home page required 161 files served from 25 unique domains, and that a typical web page requires 80 files served from 13 different domains.

"Latency over wireless connections is high - on the order of 100 milliseconds round trip," the company says in its Silk announcement. "Serving a web page requires hundreds of such round trips, only some of which can be done in parallel. In aggregate, this adds seconds to page load times."

"We sought from the start to tap into the power and capabilities of the AWS infrastructure to overcome the limitations of typical mobile browsers," Amazon's Silk team says. "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.  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."

"We refactored and rebuilt the browser software stack and now push pieces of the computation into the AWS cloud," explains CEO Jeff Bezos. "When you use Silk - without thinking about it or doing anything explicit - you're calling on the raw computational horsepower of Amazon EC2 to accelerate your web browsing."

I'm guessing Google is going to have a Chrome-related response to this, as speed has been the primary focus of that browser, which continues to gain a great deal of market share momentum. Surely the the major browser players will as well.

One thing is for sure. As long as Amazon keeps the browser limited to the Kindle Fire, or even just the Kindle Family, it's going to have a hard time getting a significant piece of the market share. They did make the Kindle platform available across many devices, however, so it would not be surprising to see them do the same with Silk.

Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.