Amazon Brings "Cloud-Accelerated" Silk Browser To Kindle Fire

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News Posted: Sat, Oct 1 2011 8:45 PM
Does the Internet truly need another Web browser? Perhaps, and particularly so when thinking about browsers for mobile devices. In the midst of Amazon launching a spate of new devices last week, they also introduced something non-hardware related. Amazon Silk is the company's new "cloud-accelerated" Web browser, and it will initially be available exclusively on the Kindle Fire.

It's called a "split browser," which uses an architecture that accelerates the power of the mobile device hardware by using the computing speed and power of the Amazon Web Services cloud (AWS). The Silk browser software resides both on Kindle Fire and on the massive server fleet that comprises the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2). With each page request, Silk dynamically determines a division of labor between the mobile hardware and Amazon EC2 (i.e. which browser sub-components run where) that takes into consideration factors like network conditions, page complexity and the location of any cached content. The result is a faster web browsing experience, and it's available exclusively on Kindle Fire, Amazon's new Kindle for movies, music, books, magazines, apps, games, and web browsing.


Modern websites have become complex. For example, on a recent day, constructing the CNN.com home page required 161 files served from 25 unique domains. This degree of complexity is common. In fact, 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. 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.

Conversely, Amazon EC2 is always connected to the backbone of the internet where round-trip latency is 5 milliseconds or less to most web sites rather than the 100 milliseconds seen over wireless connections. In addition, EC2 servers have massive computational power. On EC2, available CPU, storage, and available memory can be orders of magnitudes larger than on mobile devices. Silk uses the power and speed of the EC2 server fleet to retrieve all of the components of a website and deliver them to Kindle Fire in a single, fast stream.


In addition to having more horsepower than a mobile processor, AWS has peering relationships with major internet service providers, and many top sites are hosted on EC2. This means that many web requests will never leave the extended infrastructure of AWS, reducing transit times to only a few milliseconds. Further, while processing and memory constraints lead most mobile browsers to limit the amount of work they attempt at any one time, using EC2 frees Silk from these constraints. If hundreds of files are required to build a web page across dozens of domains, Silk can request all of this content simultaneously with EC2, without overwhelming the mobile device processor or impacting battery life.
Traditional browsers must wait to receive the HTML file in order to begin downloading the other page assets. Silk is different because it learns these page characteristics automatically by aggregating the results of millions of page loads and maintaining this knowledge on EC2. While another browser might still be setting up a connection with the host server, Silk has already pushed content that it knows is associated with the page to the Kindle Fire before the site has even instructed the browser where to find it.

We have all ideas that Silk won't be stopping at the Fire. Amazon probably didn't develop something so sophisticated only to use on a single product, much like Mozilla didn't develop Firefox to run on just one operating system. Will Amazon license the browser out to other mobile devices? Will Google be interested in it for Android? We're hopeful that it spreads its wings a bit, and sadly, we won't even begin to see how powerful it is until the Fire starts shipping.
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Interesting and a great use of technology. Of course it also allows Amazon to collect data on website usage a lot easier.

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AKwyn replied on Sat, Oct 1 2011 10:33 PM

My god, this opens up possibilities for web browsers that I didn't even know existed until now; I mean if Amazon can use the cloud, does this mean there are other ways we can increase our browsing speed.

Interesting stuff... Congratulations Amazon, I really hope this goes beyond the Amazon Kindle Fire.

 

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acarzt replied on Sun, Oct 2 2011 11:47 AM

I would like to see this in action.

Don't expect a 5ms latency... you still have to get data over that same wireless network. :-P

Anyway, very interesting idea, I wonder if others will steal it? lol

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The idea is great, similar to what skyfire does and with more horsepower. But it also raises the question of data. if there was an 'ojectionable' site, today someone can access the site as long as it is up. But if all the data is through AWS, will amazon have the power to block it?

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gazd1 replied on Mon, Oct 3 2011 7:43 AM

Well we'll see how it goes when it comes out, but it is a very interesting technology idea they have. I personally do not like the idea of the Cloud concept, but if it speeds all processors up than it will be a gain for some. This means that Amazon can now make dirt cheap smartphones, etc for their normal type of market that they sell to. Smaller processors & all, although they may see fit to make larger screen sizes available. How the tech is now though is that the larger processors are getting stronger & better for browsing anyway for the smartphone & up model types that are larger in screen sizes that most people will try to get now anyway. Also people are now going to larger screen sizes, so the larger processors will meet the demand for these people now anyway. Also I can't see Amazon keeping their prices down if they ever get a fairly good proportion of the market share anyway. One more thing anyway is as the years go buy, all your browsing will speed up anyway. So you don't have to go to the cloud concept way if you do not want to.

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Very cool stuff, I definitely think Amazon has a hit with the fire. They priced it right and if they get it out before xmas I bet they sell quite a few. The idea behind silk is pretty awesome, I'll have to see it working before I'm sold though.

Now you're just mashing it!

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AKwyn replied on Mon, Oct 3 2011 1:06 PM

rajanmanick:

The idea is great, similar to what skyfire does and with more horsepower. But it also raises the question of data. if there was an 'ojectionable' site, today someone can access the site as long as it is up. But if all the data is through AWS, will amazon have the power to block it?

I don't know. I mean Google has their free DNS service and they have the power to block it but so far they haven't managed to block anything. I don't think Amazon would want to infringe on what constitutes as objectionable (except for child pornography sites.) but the power is still there and to be honest, it's scary.

 

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