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.