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Amazon's New Silk Browser Explained

The upcoming Amazon Kindle Fire tablet will have a new kind of browser. Here's why it matters to you.

Among the features in Amazon's just-announced Kindle Fire tablet is a new browser called Amazon Silk. Silk is what Amazon calls a cloud-accelerated web browser, which splits the task of loading webpages between the Fire and Amazon's servers. One half of the Web processing magic is handled up in the cloud, with the other half carried out directly on the Kindle Fire itself, with the goal of reducing how long it takes to load pages.

Although this idea isn't new (Opera Mini works in a similar way), Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos explained that this new browser "will take out a lot of the delays in loading a website."

A video explanation explains how Amazon's implementation works.

How does it work?

Silk works its magic with the help of Amazon's EC2 (Elastic Computing Cloud) service. EC2 effectively acts as the middleman, sitting between you and your webpages, simplifying them for what's considered "mobile" consumption.

This simplification technique involves a whole host of processes, such as file compression, page caching, and local file storage.

In practice this could result in a 3MB image being optimized down to a more mobile-friendly 50KB file. It could also mean storing commonly accessed files directly on the Fire tablet and doing away with the need to reload them each and every time you visit a certain site.

Silk will also try to predict your browsing habits based on what others do. This prediction practice will try and guess what pages you are going to visit next, and will then pre-load them in advance.

All these background processes should result in lower bandwidth use and faster page loading. Oh, and if EC2 goes offline, Silk will switch to a backup mode where it renders everything on the Kindle Fire itself. This may mean slower page load times while EC2 is down, but you shouldn't experience any downtime.

So, could this be the ultimate tablet-based browser? It offers Flash, it has the might of Amazon EC2 behind it and it promises to run super-fast. We'll see how it fares when we actually get to play with it, but it sure sounds good to me.

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