Amazon’s Silk


Interesting read on Tech Dirt on Amazon.com’s Silk browser. They note that it’s a copyright infringement suit waiting to happen. If you’re too lazy to read the article, basically Silk will copy whatever website you go to onto it’s servers so it can send you a compressed version of it. For instance if a website that you’re on has a 3mb picture they’ll send you a 50kb picture instead. This does a few things. First, it will help relieve congestion on cell networks because smaller pieces of information are being sent. Second, it will save you data if you don’t have an unlimited data package. Finally, it could violate copyright. Why? Because it’s copying everything from a website and then sending you the information from a different source. Not only that, but it is effectively altering the picture they are sending you. I’m not sure if there have been any copyright cases based on compressing the quality of a picture, but for all intents and purposes it’s altering the picture. It probably should fall under fair use, but you never know some one will probably try to sue over that.

There are some other issues to consider too. The browser has predictive capabilities based off of aggregate users actions. This is actually fairly similar to what Facebook is doing, but there are no implications for ads with Amazon (at this point we don’t know if they store individual user statistics). The example they give on the website, is if you go to NYTimes.com and a high percentage of users then click on the business section Amazon will pre-load this information into their severs. This could have an impact on big websites’ server loads as well. They could potentially be hit twice for a lot of visits to their site. If Amazon predicts incorrectly, then it will hit the server at least twice.

Another interesting consideration is related to ad revenue. Let’s say users of some website like, I don’t know KBMOD.com, always visit a YouTube account after reading the front page, let’s go with InfiniteSadd, which would then auto play the video that’s on top. This of course have the ad pop up on the bottom. Now the question I have is in these situations would this count as a click, or would the ads start to filter out views and click throughs from Silk? The situation, I presented is unlikely as there’s no direct link from KBMOD to InfiniteSadd’s user profile. But’s easy to image that it could work that way.

I’d really like to know more about the user statistics that Silk will be collecting. Since the browser is going to be on their Fire device (who knows could also be an update for older Kindles as well), Amazon will know who is browsing what you are browsing and may actually keep that information in your account to predict your behavior better. I don’t see any reason why they couldn’t collect that data. I would imagine that it’s very technologically feasible to use a larger aggregate dataset for websites you don’t frequent, but for your most commonly visited websites for Amazon to have enough usage to figure out where you’re going to go next.

I think the browser is a great idea. However, I can also see this turn into another way for Amazon to better target your recommendations. If you are on your Fire and they see where you go, then they will also know what other products you might be interested in that you haven’t bought through Amazon before. If they know what interests you then they can put those into your “Silk based recommendations.” Now there hasn’t been any talk of that yet, but since they are selling the product at a loss they need you to buy a decent amount of product to get a return on their investment. I’ve seen two values, $50 and $10 losses.

Keep your eyes open for news on this, it could be a copyright and privacy issue before long.

One thought on “Amazon’s Silk

  1. Pingback: Content is king, but if you build it will they come? | Science, Technology, + Culture

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