the Silk browser on the Kindle Fire

what a browser does…

A web browser is a software program that finds web pages for you and renders them on your computer.  It locates the page you want and then reads and follows the HTML instructions it finds there.  The instructions may require the browser to travel to separate locations so it can get detailed–and sometimes complex–formatting instructions, or favicons, or to call up images that belong to the page.

…takes time and effort

All this can mean lots of round trips communicating between your browser and the page you’ve asked it to look for.  Once you’re on a given page, you’ll most likely want to follow links to other pages, either to watch a video, read an article or get more details about a possible purchase.  That’s a bunch more round trips.  Yes, we’re talking milliseconds (1/1000 of a second) for each one, but even milliseconds eventually add up if there are enough of them.

how AMZN makes Silk “super-fast”

Most of this has to do with the massive “cloud computing” infrastructure AMZN has built in becoming the online department store to the world.

In particular,

–AMZN links directly to the internet backbone.  So it can connect Silk to “outside” web pages up to 20x faster than other services.

–AMZN maintains continuous connections to the “top sites on the web,” eliminating the need for initial introductions between you and the page you want.

–AMZN has a big web hosting business, so lots of sites are inside the AMZN cloud already; AMZN caches others.  No need to go hunting for them.

–for the most popular destinations, AMZN cuts through the back-and-forth between browser and web page and starts to send information it knows you need, even before your browser asks for it.

–AMZN studies how people generally behave on a given page.  Based on its conclusions, it pre-loads content on your browser that it anticiates you may ask for next.

pretty impressive–

In fact, AMZN’s description sounds an awful lot like AOL back in the heady days when dial-up was king and the AOL server farms were all the internet many people ever used.

one caveat

Anyone using the Silk browser may well spend most or all of his time inside the “walled garden” of the AMZN cloud.  This means that, like AOL decades ago, or GOOG or AAPL today, AMZN will be able to see–and analyze–large chunks of the internet life of any such customer.

This stands to give a tremendous marketing advantage to AMZN, in two ways:

–in all likelihood, AMZN will “own” the Silk customer in the way AAPL “owns” users of its app store, and

–AMZN will be able to collect huge amounts of new data about consumer behavior.

Will customers balk at giving so much personal data to AMZN?  …not at all, in my opinion.  But AMZN will have to walk a finer line than before between using customer data for marketing analysis and respecting the privacy of users.

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