Flash Video Streaming from the Cloud

Two years ago, Adobe announced that they would discontinue support for the Adobe Flash Player plugin on Android. This is part of a larger trend. In the era of HTML5, many mobile devices don’t support Flash. Site owners have been moving to alternative video formats, but this change is happening gradually. Many popular websites still feature Flash content. So, in response to your feedback, we developed a new solution: an experimental streaming viewer that plays Flash video from the cloud.

The experimental streaming viewer has been available for a little while, but not all of our customers know about it yet. Here’s an overview.

With the experimental streaming viewer, you can view Flash video on your Kindle Fire without downloading any files, applications, or plugins. Instead of streaming Flash video to your device, Silk streams Flash video through a remote server in the Amazon cloud. This gives you fast, intuitive access to some of the most popular video content on the web. Silk currently supports Flash video streaming for a few dozen popular websites, including:

We’ll add support for other websites in the future.

Using the streaming viewer

On a viewer-compatible site, when you first visit a page containing Flash content, you’ll see a message indicating that Flash is detected. Play buttons appear over the video window and at the bottom of the screen.

ESV_spash_screen

To start streaming Flash content, just tap one of the play buttons.

ESV_play_button

You can also go to the menu and tap Open experimental viewer.

ESV_menu_launch

A splash screen appears as the viewer loads, and after a few seconds Flash content becomes available. By default, the viewer displays content in full-screen mode, without the borders showing. You can bring up the viewer borders by tapping the options button.

ESV_playback

Borders appear along the top side and the right side of the viewer, providing basic navigation features like the home and favorites buttons. To return to full-screen mode, just tap the screen. To exit the viewer, tap the back button.

ESV_back_button

You’ll return to the original web page containing the Flash content.

We expect the experimental streaming viewer to keep evolving in response to your feedback, so look for upgraded features and support in the future. Happy Flash viewing!

Silk Has a New Look

Since our last major release back in September 2012, the Amazon Silk team has been working hard to make the browser faster and more responsive. A lot of our improvements have happened under the hood, so you may not have noticed the last few software updates. But with our latest release, the browser has a new look!

Based on feedback from Kindle Fire owners, we redesigned the user interface to make the browser easier and more intuitive to use. Among the changes, you’ll find a new tutorial, redesigned tabs, improved browser controls, simpler navigation options, and easier access to our Reading View feature. We’ve also published a Silk Developer Guide to accompany the release.

Our goal with the Silk redesign is to provide a faster, more fluid, and more elegant browsing experience to help customers discover and rediscover the content that matters to them.

Here are some highlights from the new design.

Just-In-Time Tutorial

The first time you open Silk on your Kindle Fire, you’ll see the new Just-In-Time (JIT) tutorial.

JIT_20130718

The tutorial points out a few key features in the new user interface. For example, the left panel includes links to your Most Visited pages, Bookmarks, and History. The Action menu presents a number of features, including one-button access to share content via email or other applications and a search option that makes it easy to look for specific words on a page. And the Reading View button activates an elegant reading experience, free from distracting links or advertisements.

When you’re ready to close the tutorial and start using the browser, just tap OK.

Redesigned Tabs (and Other Improved Controls)

Silk has a new start page, which opens when you select the Silk browser from the Carousel or when you tap Web.

Kindle_Carousel_20130718

The start page opens a new tab with an empty address bar, ready to browse. It also shows links to your most visited pages. Our user studies showed that “most visited” links and direct URL entry were the two most commonly used navigation methods in the old Silk interface, so we made them both prominent in this new tab view.

Start_tab_20130718

To bring up the keyboard, just tap the address bar.

Start_tab_activated_20130718

In redesigning the UI, we also learned that the old tab bar was too flat, making it unclear where one tab ended and another started. Some users found it confusing to switch between tabs, so we changed things up.

Tabs_450px

The new tabs have rounded corners and more depth so that they stand out more clearly from the background.

The other browser controls are friendlier now, too. We redesigned everything from the new tab and refresh buttons to the text in the address bar.

Browser_controls

We think these changes will make it easier to move among pages and open new ones. Silk customers browse the web in all sorts of unique ways, so it’s important that the navigation be simple, intuitive, and highly usable. That’s the philosophy behind this redesign.

Improved Readability

Silk offers a Reading View that provides an immersive reading experience. The idea is to reduce clutter and minimize visual noise.

Web content is often surrounded by related links, advertisements, and other competing material. With Reading View, content is elevated above the clutter. When Reading View is turned on, Silk loads the body of the page in a reading-optimized, single screen—even for multipage articles. The full page is still available in the background, so you can easily return to a traditional view to see the whole page.

Reading View was available in previous versions of the browser, but some of our customers weren’t aware of the feature. So in our redesign, we made it easier to find.

Reading_View_button

When you tap the Reading view button, you’ll see the page as follows:

Reading_View

To exit Reading View, tap the X.

Reading_View_Exit

We’ve also improved Full Screen view, so that customers can enjoy a simple, uncluttered reading experience in this view as well. To enter Full Screen view, just scroll down the page. Full Screen view still shows links and ads, but you won’t see the browser chrome at the top and bottom of the screen. To exit Full Screen view, tap the nub at the bottom of the screen or scroll down with a bit of acceleration.

Chromeless_view

Left Panel Menu and Navigation Pages

The new Silk UI features a left panel menu with options that were previously scattered across the browser. To open the left panel menu, either tap the upper-left button or edge-swipe from the left side of the device.

Silk_menu_closed

The menu opens in a panel on the left side of the screen. Here you’ll find links to your favorite content: Most Visited, Bookmarks, DownloadsHistory, and Trending Now. You’ll also see links to Settings and Help.

Silk_menu

Let’s look at one of the redesigned navigation pages, Bookmarks. You can bookmark a page by opening the Action menu and tapping Add bookmark. Bookmarked pages then appear on the Bookmarks page, which you can view in two ways. If the slider in the upper-right corner of the Bookmarks page is positioned to the left, you’ll see a single column of digest-style bookmark entries.

Bookmarks_column

To switch to a grid view of your bookmarks, flip the slider to the right.

Bookmarks_grid

You can add additional bookmarks by tapping Add.

We won’t review all of the revamped navigation pages here. We think you’ll have fun discovering them in the redesigned interface.

Performance Improvements

In addition to a new user interface, this latest Silk release also benefits from performance enhancements to the underlying rendering engine. We have been working diligently to make Silk faster and more intuitive, and we’re creating features to make Silk the best way to discover the web.

Of course, these improvements are just a start. We’re in the early days of Amazon Silk, and there’s plenty of work still to do. Our goal is continuous improvement. With that in mind, we’d love to hear from you. Please get in touch and let us know what you think of Silk. You can reach us at amazon-silk-feedback@amazon.com.

A new version of Silk

Psst! Remember us?

Roughly 344 days ago, we debuted this blog to announce the launch of our new browser, Amazon Silk. We originally expected to publish a regular cadence of updates, but it turns out we were way more excited about working on the browser than writing about it! Well, a few of us finally decided to take a coding break over Labor Day weekend to make sure we got the word out on some exciting news.

Today in Santa Monica, we announced the release of the latest additions to the Kindle family, the new Kindle Fire and the Kindle Fire HD. These new devices come preloaded with a new version of the Silk browser. What’s new you ask? Let’s take a look.

Page load speed – On our internal benchmark test, the new version of Silk registers at least a 30% reduction in page load latency as compared to the prior version on the original Kindle Fire. How do we define that benchmark? We run tens of thousands of iterations across a common set of real “archetype” web sites in our labs. These tests are run simultaneously, ensuring that our results are not skewed by variations in dynamic site content.

Improved HTML5 support –The new version of Silk registers twice the HTML5 compatibility score of the original version, as measured by html5test.com. A few of the key improvements include:

  • Improved form and element support – including full support for field types such as keygen, output, progress, and meter
  • Geolocation – for location-relevant web apps and web content
  • IndexedDB – support added for the Indexed Database API, in addition to the previously supported Web SQL Database
  • Web workers – allowing web applications to spawn background processing jobs
  • Web notifications – for sending alerts to end users

Our developer customers have made clear that we need to continue to push ourselves on this front, requesting such features as in-browser access to the device camera. Look for more improvements in this area in the months ahead. And don’t hesitate to add comments on what missing capabilities are most important to you.

UI improvements – Our customers have provided some excellent feedback on their experiences using Silk. Regarding our UI, particularly the new tab view, a couple of common themes have emerged:

  • After even limited usage, the start page becomes littered with screen captures (i.e. images of the web pages you’ve visited). Eventually, the utility of quick access to most visited and bookmarked pages is lost amid the clutter.
  • Intermingling bookmarks and most visited sites in the same view is confusing, with many customers unclear as to what exactly they were seeing on the new tab.

The screenshot below illustrates these issues:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see, the view we provide when a new tab is created in Silk is a mix of most visited sites and bookmarks. In this example we see a bookmark for Amazon alongside a screen capture for ESPN, one of the customer’s frequently accessed sites. The lack of labeling or useful filters on this screen has caused confusion as to what precisely is being presented.

With today’s launch, we’ve introduced a new, more intuitive start page with better navigation elements, as shown below:

Your most visited pages are now clearly distinguished from other navigation options, making the sites you go to most the easiest to get to. We’ve also added simple top navigation to both Bookmarks and History. Besides addressing the obvious problem of intermingling bookmarks with most visited, this new design also addresses a customer experience problem we had not anticipated: how to find and manage browser history. The original Silk UI exposed browser history through the “more options” button, which proved to be undiscoverable for a large swath of our customers. History is now front and center, making it easy to clear out cruft or navigate back to a page of interest.

New features – The new version of Silk carries forward all of the features our customers liked best, including top tabs, full screen browsing, and our Reading View feature. We’ve also added two new content discovery features. The first is “Trending Now” (see the second shelf in the new tab view image above) which alerts our customers to pages that have experienced an unusual increase in their level of traffic, usually a good indicator that the page or topic may be particularly noteworthy right now. We also offer “Selected Sites” (shelf three in the new tab view) a selection of up and coming or otherwise noteworthy sites that our customers might find interesting.

So that’s what’s new in the new version of Silk. We’re excited to get this release out to our customers and hope you’ll let us know what you think.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Introducing Amazon Silk

Today in New York, Amazon introduced Silk, an all-new web browser powered by Amazon Web Services (AWS) and available exclusively on the just announced Kindle Fire.  You might be asking, “A browser?  Do we really need another one?”  As you’ll see in the video below, Silk isn’t just another browser.  We sought from the start to tap into the power and capabilities of the AWS infrastructure to overcome the limitations of typical mobile browsers.  Instead of a device-siloed software application, Amazon Silk deploys a split-architecture.  All of the browser subsystems are present on your Kindle Fire as well as on the AWS cloud computing platform.  Each time you load a web page, Silk makes a dynamic decision about which of these subsystems will run locally and which will execute remotely.  In short, Amazon Silk extends the boundaries of the browser, coupling the capabilities and interactivity of your local device with the massive computing power, memory, and network connectivity of our cloud.

We’ll have a lot more to say about Amazon Silk in the coming weeks and months, so please check back with us often.  You can also follow us on Twitter at @AmazonSilk.  Finally, if you’re interested in learning more about career opportunities on the Amazon Silk team, please visit our jobs page.


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