We've already discussed whether Amazon's Kindle Fire 'Silk' browser is a copyright lawsuit waiting to happen
, for the way it apparently is going to cache and modify content from its own AWS servers. It seems that people are realizing some other potential issues with it as well. Keith Dawson
points us to a couple of interesting stories looking at the data mining implications. The first, by Chris Espinosa, summarizes the issue succinctly
The “split browser” notion is that Amazon will use its EC2 back end to pre-cache user web browsing, using its fat back-end pipes to grab all the web content at once so the lightweight Fire-based browser has to only download one simple stream from Amazon’s servers. But what this means is that Amazon will capture and control every Web transaction performed by Fire users. Every page they see, every link they follow, every click they make, every ad they see is going to be intermediated by one of the largest server farms on the planet. People who cringe at the data-mining implications of the Facebook Timeline ought to be just floored by the magnitude of Amazon’s opportunity here. Amazon now has what every storefront lusts for: the knowledge of what other stores your customers are shopping in and what prices they’re being offered there. What’s more, Amazon is getting this not by expensive, proactive scraping the Web, like Google has to do; they’re getting it passively by offering a simple caching service, and letting Fire users do the hard work of crawling the Web. In essence the Fire user base is Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, scraping the Web for free and providing Amazon with the most valuable cache of user behavior in existence.
So there's that. Of course, there are a few caveats here. In theory, your ISP could have much of the same info -- though you can get around it with encryption. Furthermore, your ISP isn't caching everything, so there are some limitations there. Of course, on the flip side, the Silk browser is only on the Kindle Fire, meaning Amazon is only getting such data based on what people surf over that particular tablet device and its 7-inch screen. It might be interesting to see some data here, but I'd bet the sort of browsing done on such a device is not representative of how people surf the wider web.
Of course, things could get more interesting if Amazon decides to enter the browser wars in a bigger way... such as by releasing Silk as a desktop browser as well. That theory is posited in another article highlighted
by Dawson, this one by Joe Brockmeier, which delves deeply into the implications of the Silk browser
on a variety of fronts. He's the first person I've seen bring up the idea of Amazon entering the larger desktop browser wars:
But does it seem likely that Amazon will put that much emphasis on Silk just for the Fire? I don't think that's likely. Amazon has several jobs posted for Silk engineers, and while mobile is mentioned, it's not exclusive. I strongly suspect that Amazon is going to be releasing a Silk desktop browser eventually. Probably not in the near future – Amazon needs to make sure that its infrastructure can handle the onslaught of all the Kindle users before trying to scale to an unknown number of desktop users.
Remember when people said the browser wars were over and Microsoft had won? Yeah. Anyway, Brockmeier's article also notes that Amazon won't just have all this aggregate info, but in theory can tie the info specifically to the Amazon account holder:
Each Kindle is tied to an Amazon ID, which gives Amazon a great deal of information about you already. Introducing Silk into the mix and Amazon is going to be in a position to know a great deal about your Web browsing habits along with your buying habits and media habits. Now Amazon is in a position to know what books you buy, what shows you watch, the Web sites you visit and much more.
Perhaps it's not just copyright lawsuits that Amazon will be facing with Silk.