Amazon just announced a whole boatload of new Kindles and the lineup is quite impressive. There’s the really small Kindle, Kindle Touch, Kindle Fire (Android tablet), Kindle Ring (a phone), Kindle Tube (a tv), and of course Kindle Grill (a toaster) *.

Yet of all the things they mentioned, the one that really stood out to me was the new Silk browser.

The basic premise behind Silk is that it does almost all the heavy lifting of constructing web pages outside of the device that it runs on. Amazon is able to leverage its massive EC2 cloud to render pages and then send them back to the browser in one shot.

Suddenly, Amazon’s infrastructure is an integral component of the browsing experience. It’s like having a legal(?) traffic intercept between users and sites they visit. Can it be used for good? Yes, of course. Can it be used for evil? Absolutely.

How Will They Use it For Good?

Amazon will use the knowledge of how you and millions of other yous browse to optimize your experience.

They will be able to cache the most popular bits of the internet and serve it up almost instantly. They’ll be able to use other people’s browsing patterns to get you the next thing you’ll likely want quickly (Amazon is calling that feature Machine Learning).

How Will They Use it for Evil Profit?

Knowing exactly what millions of people are doing is powerful.

First, knowing more about what people do helps companies target those people better. In the same way Facebook and Google use their knowledge of you to help advertisers reach you more effectively, Amazon can use their knowledge of you to sell you stuff.

Reading about the announcement of a new Kindle? Perhaps you’d like to buy one. Browsing a self help story? Perhaps you’d be interested in The Secret. Looking at tomorrow’s weather report about a rapidly approaching blizzard? Perhaps this stylish pair of snow boots will tickle your fancy.

Second, Amazon could give preference to some content providers over others. In essence, Amazon is now in the same position as the Telecoms who control delivery pipes. And, if the Net Neutrality battles taught as anything, if you control the last mile, you can selectively decide who uses those pipes and how.

For example, Amazon could cache CNN.com content more aggressively than FoxNews.com content and therefore provide CNN users with a better experience. Moreover, they could even charge CNN for the privilege.

Now, I’m not saying that they will necessarily do any of this. I’m saying that they will likely do at least some of it. Eventually. I mean, it’s not like they have “Do No Evil” as their company motto, right?

Will This Get Adopted?

The short answer is yes. Assuming that Kindle Fire is going to sell well (and it will), you will have millions of people browsing with Silk on their Fires before you know it. (On a side note, “Silk on their Fires” could make for a nice band and/or song name).

There’s also nothing stopping Amazon from releasing a desktop version. And, based on the fact that Chrome’s rapid adoption was in part propelled by its speed, I wouldn’t be surprised if Silk for the desktop gets significant traction quickly.

So yes, lots of people will probably end up using Silk. And those of us building web apps will probably need to support it. Fantastic.

Anything Else?

Yes, I’m really curious about what format Amazon is using to deliver the payload. Is it some sort of “embedded” HTML? Is it a new format all together? Can browsers other than Silk utilize it (along with Amazon’s rendering infrastructure)? Inquiring minds want to know.

 

 

* I may have made up a few of those.

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