Amazon may well be planning a version of its Silk browser for PC, Mac and mobile platforms, rather than just the Kindle Fire tablet announced yesterday, if domain name registrations are anything to go by. The retailer has gone on a URL spree, buying over 500 domains, but it’s registrations for “amazonsilkforandroid.com”, “amazonsilkformac.com” and “amazonsilkforpc.com” that have particularly caught attention. Silk uses a combination of caching and on-the-fly server-side compression to boost browsing speed on the Kindle Fire.
Although the so-called “split browser” architecture of Silk is initially an exclusive feature of Kindle Fire, it’s entirely possible that Amazon has broader ambitions for the software. As the company explains it, Silk uses Amazon’s EC2 servers to cache websites at high speed, maintaining a persistent connection open to the backend server on the AWS cloud, and using compressed pages to minimize loading times.
It’s Amazon’s page suggestions that are the biggest indicator of Silk’s potential future, however. The browser learns likely page interest based on an aggregate of all users, and can preload the website it believes you’re probably going to want to visit next. They’re the same skills as used in Amazon’s collaborative filtering techniques and machine learning algorithms for the “customers who bought this also bought” feature, and represent not only a time saving shortcut for Kindle Fire users but a potentially huge source of personal data for Amazon itself.
That has raised the hackles of privacy advocates already, though Amazon says Kindle Fire owners will be able to turn off the heuristics and use Silk as a regular browser if they prefer. Extending the app to the desktop and other mobile platforms, however, as these URLs might imply is the intention, would significantly extend Amazon’s data collection abilities.