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Wednesday, September 28, 2011, 09:01 am PT (12:01 pm ET)

Kindle Fire features Amazon's 'cloud-accelerated' Silk Web browser

As part of the Kindle Fire unveiling on Wednesday, Amazon announced its new browser architecture, dubbed Silk, which does some processing and rendering in the cloud to speed up Web browsing.

Featuring what Amazon calls a "split browser" architecture, the "cloud-accelerated" Silk uses Amazon Web services to offer a faster Web browsing experience. The Silk software resides on both the new Kindle Fire, as well as Amazon's servers.

Silk utilizes Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud, or "EC2," which sports latency of 5 milliseconds or less to most websites, rather than the 100 milliseconds seen through most wireless connections. Silk is said to dynamically divide labor between the local Kindle Fire and the cloud-based EC2, taking into consideration factors like network conditions, page complexity and the location of any cached content.

"We refactored and rebuilt the browser software stack and now push pieces of the computation into the AWS cloud," Amazon.com founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said. "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."

Amazon noted that constructing cnn.com requires 161 files served from 25 unique domains, representing the complexity of modern websites. An average website is said to require 80 files served from 13 different domains.

Combined with high latency over wireless connections, this can lead to long load times for websites. Amazon says its new Silk browser solves this by sharing the load between the Kindle Fire and its servers.



The retailer noted that many top websites are hosted on Amazon's own EC2 servers, meaning that many website requests will never leave the extended infrastructure of Amazon Web Services.

"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," the company said.

Silk 1


Amazon Silk keeps a persistent connection open to EC2, which in turn also maintains a connection to the top sites on the Web. Similar to Amazon's recommended products on its website, Silk "learns more about the individual sites it renders and where users go next."

"By observing the aggregate traffic patterns on various web sites, it refines its heuristics, allowing for accurate predictions of the next page request," Amazon said. "For example, Silk might observe that 85 percent of visitors to a leading news site click on that site's top headline.

Silk 2


"With that knowledge, EC2 and Silk together make intelligent decisions about pre-pushing content to the Kindle Fire. As a result, the next page a Kindle Fire customer is likely to visit will already be available locally in the device cache, enabling instant rendering to the screen."

The Amazon Silk browser is a feature exclusive to the new Kindle Fire announced on Wednesday. The color touchscreen tablet aims to compete with Apple's iPad with an aggressive $199 price, and will begin shipping on Nov. 15.