Opera responds to Amazon's Cloud-powered 'Silk' browser

Opera responds to Amazon's Cloud-powered 'Silk' browser

Split-browser design is nothing new, Opera Software says

Kindle Fire

Kindle Fire

One of to features of Amazon's recently announced Kindle Fire tablet drawing attention is its WebKit-based 'Silk' Web browser. What makes Silk different from most browsers is its 'split browser' approach: Putting together complicated Web pages in Amazon's Cloud infrastructure before downloading the end result to the browser.

Silk can function as a standard browser — including support for HTML5 and Flash — but it can also use Amazon's EC2 to do some of the heavy lifting; for example, optimising JavaScript, compressing content, and acting as an off-browser cache.

Amazon's Silk FAQ adds that the browser "has the ability to learn about traffic patterns on individual sites over time, allowing it to begin fetching the next page that users may wish to visit". The browser can communicate with Amazon's Cloud using a version of the Google-developed SPDY networking protocol, instead of HTTP; HTTP is still used between websites and EC2.

Opera Software — creators of the Opera Web browser — has been quick to point out that Amazon is not the first to use server-side preprocessing of Web pages to spend up browsing. The company's desktop browser Opera, Opera Mini and Opera Mobile have Web acceleration features. A statement from the browser maker says that Silk "leverages Amazon’s cloud computing technology, which is similar in concept to the cloud technology found in Opera Software’s web browsers. Opera Software has been in the cloud-assisted browsing business for six years now, beginning with the Opera Mini mobile browser, and continuing with the Opera Turbo feature on Opera Mobile and Opera for computers."

However, unlike Amazon's claims that its split design will actually optimise some Web page elements, Opera's 'Turbo' merely compresses pages on the company's servers before they are downloaded to the browser. "Like Amazon Silk, the Opera servers compress the webpages as it processes them, to as little as 10% of the webpages’ original size, making it faster and cheaper to load each page," Opera Software's statement reads.

Security experts have raised concerns over Silk's Cloud-powered split-browser design, particularly the FAQ note that Amazon "will establish a secure connection from the cloud to the site owner on your behalf for page requests of sites using [Internet security protocol] SSL" and section in the Amazon Silk terms and conditions that states: "Amazon Silk also temporarily logs web addresses -- known as uniform resource locators (“URLs”) -- for the web pages it serves and certain identifiers, such as IP or MAC addresses, to troubleshoot and diagnose Amazon Silk technical issues. We generally do not keep this information for longer than 30 days."

The T&Cs note that while it is possible to use Silk in an 'off-cloud' mode but which "allows web pages generally to go directly to your computer rather than pass through our servers".

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