It's bad enough that the new Kindle Fire tablets – the revamped 1st-gen model and the three HD successors – will be ad-supported. No one really wants to see adverts on their screen when the gadget goes idle. Yet considering what the company has packed into the HD models, Amazon is seemingly looking for a little financial help from sponsors to keep the price point low. Consumers who don't want to deal with the annoyance can just stick with Google, Apple, or as Jane said on Thursday, import a new ad-free Kindle Fire internationally.
Now there's talk that the exclusive "cloud accelerated" Amazon Silk browser has received its own handful of improvements. These include faster page load speeds, better HTML5 support, an improved Start page, and loads more. It will also come packed with a feature called "Trending Now" that identifies which webpages are experiencing an unusual load of traffic, and notes that they may contain "noteworthy" information.
In other words, the new and improved Amazon Silk will now track user behavior more so than ever before.
Amazon Silk has essentially tracked user behavior since the launch of the original Kindle Fire last year – it just didn't publish the findings. As explained by Amazon, the browser would detect which website the user tended to visit more often, and then pre-cache the content in the cloud via Amazon Web Services and EC2. Thus, these most frequented sites would be delivered faster rather than pulling the information over and over from the website's original host.
This caching process, according to Amazon, is called Dynamic Split Browsing. "You can think of Amazon Silk as a small store for files you access," Amazon said back in 2011. "What we have done is create a limitless cache used to render the web pages you view every day. It does not take a single byte of storage on the device itself."
Now imagine all that data stored in Amazon's cloud and being used to push specific sites. So far there's no indication that Amazon Silk is actually aggregating personally identifiable information, but as TechCrunch points out, some of us like to know when and how their browsing habits are put to use. Some consumers may not trust Amazon at all, and want to opt out of the data collection altogether. This is where side-loading comes in: install an entirely separate browser like Firefox or Dolphin.
Outside the suspicious Trending Now feature, the new Amazon Silk supposedly registers a 30-percent reduction in page load latency compared to the original version. It also has twice the HTML5 compatibility score, showing improvements in form and element support, geolocation (yep, red alert there too), IndexedDB, web workers, and web notifications. In-browser access to the camera will come "in the months ahead," Amazon stated.
Should Kindle Fire users be wary of the Trending Now feature? Based on the description, it seems as if it's no better than Facebook and the way it tracks what you're reading no matter the location. Consumers should have the option of bailing out on any type of tracking feature, whether it's intentional or for improving a specific service like page rendering in Amazon Silk.