Why I don’t use Amazon’s Silk browser

Why I don’t use Amazon’s Silk browser

I’m afraid of my Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ 4G LTE Wireless 32GB right now.

As a consumer, that’s not a good place to be. :) As the title of the blog says, “I love my Kindle,” and I do.

Still, I keep checking and checking, dreading something.

You see, I know there is an update coming. I’ve been reading about it in the Kindle forums, but it hasn”t been announced yet and isn’t available at

Kindle Software Updates

When it happens, it happens. There’s really nothing you can do about stopping an update, if you connect with Amazon’s servers (which I do regularly).

I normally welcome the updates, but this one, which will change my system from 8.4.3 to 8.4.5, is reported to break something I use every day.

First, let me tell you how to check your own version:

Swipe down from the top, More, Device, About…you’ll see the system version listed there.

If you have 8.4.5, you’ve already gotten the update.

The numbers are similar for the 7″: if you have 7.4.5 (rather than 7.4.3), you are updated.

I’ve heard that it brings the ability to highlight in different colors.

However, and this is what concerns me, I’ve also heard that it breaks the use of the Flash player in non-Amazon browsers.

You see, back in November of 2011, Adobe abandoned Flash for mobile browsers. That meant that the most current mobile browsers were unable to play Flash videos. It wasn’t Amazon’s fault, and it wasn’t limited to the Fire.

What you could do, though, is install the Flash player on your Fire, and use another browser that would support it.

That’s what I’ve been doing.

Amazon allows us to install apps from outside sources…despite what you might hear, it’s not a closed ecosystem, and never has been.

I think Amazon wants to compete. Oh, they want to win, and they’ll spend more money than you’ll ever see to do it, but I think they like the head-to-head.

Here’s how you allow it:

Swipe down, More, Device, Allow Installation of Applications from unknown sources

Naturally, if you do that, Amazon can’t be sure that what you install will work and that it won’t hurt your Kindle, so you take the responsibility for that app. That makes sense to me, and I’m fine with it.

I have the Maxthon Browser (version 4.0.4 1000) installed, and Adobe Flash Player (version 11.1).

You can get the Flash Player directly from Adobe here:

http://helpx.adobe.com/flash-player/kb/archived-flash-player-versions.html

I’d gotten the Maxthon browser originally directly in the Amazon Appstore, when it was compatible with my first generation Kindle Fire.

I think I got Maxthon for my Fire 8.9 from 1Mobile. Note: I am not recommending that you do the same…while I took that responsibility with my own Fire, I don’t want to take it with yours. :)

Having the combination of the two has meant that I can watch Flash videos on my Kindle Fire.

According to what I’m hearing, though, once my Fire updates, I won’t be able to do that any more, using Maxthon (or Dolphin).

I know some people will immediately assume that Amazon did this on purpose, to force people to use Silk.

Personally, I doubt that’s the case. Yes, if you use Silk, they can probably collect more data on you, and that’s valuable.  Yes, if Maxthon (or Dolphin, another reportedly affected browser) breaks your Kindle Fire, you are going to ask Amazon for help…even saying “no” costs them something, because Customer Service is expensive.

Generally, though, Amazon hasn’t done that kind of thing. For example, they approved the Netflix app for the Kindle Fire…even though it is a direct competitor to their own Amazon Instant Video (and in some ways, to Prime  Streaming Video).

While I do believe Amazon will do what it can to encourage you to use their apps, devices, and services, I don’t think they do it by trying to prevent you from using the competition (any more than what is the business norm).

In fact, I’m hoping that the reason I don’t have this update yet, and that it isn’t on the Kindle Software Updates page, is that they are trying to fix the problem (and possibly others). Amazon doesn’t want unhappy customers. I’m guessing that they were trying to do something to make the Silk browser work better with online videos, and that is just conflicting with Flash. That’s just my guess, though.

So, here’s the obvious question:

I’m a big Amazon fan. I use Kindles, Kindle Fires, Subscribe & Save, and am a Prime member.

Why don’t I use Amazon’s browser?

After all, I thought it sounded like one of the coolest Kindle Fire features. I liked the idea of “predictive loading”. It was going to learn my habits (and those of others), and pre-load webpages to make it faster. For example, when I go to

IMDb.com

a movie & TV reference site on the web (which is now owned by Amazon), I almost always go to the Top News section after I peruse the front page.

Silk was supposed to learn that, and so pre-load Top News whenever I went to IMDb.

It was supposed to do a lot of the processing in Amazon’s Cloud, where it would be much faster than on the device itself.

Well, I never really saw that…Silk has never been that fast for me, but that’s not the big issue.

The big thing is that it doesn’t have a couple of important features that I rely on in my browser.

The first one would be hard for them to fix. There is no desktop version of Silk, and no SmartPhone version.

One reason that I like Maxthon is (like Google Chrome), you can easily sync your bookmarks. Inevitably, I’m going to find websites on my Fire which I would rather see on my desktop, and I’m going to want mobile access to sites I’ve bookmarked on my desktop. Silk can’t do any of that.

The other big thing is that there is no privacy or “stealth” mode. I use that much of the time. It just means that the browser doesn’t store information about you the same way. When I visit a site, it doesn’t cache that site for me later, or store my passwords, or put it into my history, that kind of thing. Sure, that means that I have to enter that stuff every time, but for a lot of sites, I’m okay with that.  If I have a site I’m going to use a lot, I browse not in private mode. If it’s somewhere I’m just going to maybe see a funny video, I’m stealth.

There are other reasons to use a privacy mode…you may not want other users of the device to know which sites you visit…I won’t speculate on why. ;)

That’s one they could fix. I think it would especially appeal to people now, after all the talk there has been in the press about surveillance of internet use. Stealth mode wouldn’t prevent spying on you, of course, but it would make people feel like something has been done.

In fact, I think it would be cool if Amazon licensed

MaskMe

for Silk, so we could have better control over our information on line while still using services.

Now, it’s possible Amazon doesn’t want a privacy mode because it wants to collect data on your use, and it might interfere with that. I do think those two don’t have to be the same thing…you could erase my tracks while still knowing what my itinerary was. :) Amazon could know in the moment, and then not have my Kindle Fire know it afterwards.

Now, I should be clear: from what I’m hearing, the update won’t break Maxthon…just break the use of Flash in Maxthon. If I want to go to a site privately and use Flash, though, I’ll reportedly be out of luck.

Here’s hoping that isn’t what happens. :)

I’m curious if other people use the Silk browser (that’s what you use when you tap Web on your Fire)…so I’m going to ask you:

These questions only apply if you use a Kindle Fire (of any generation):

Okay…I’m going back to having the update of Damocles hanging over my head.  ;) Hopefully, it won’t mess me up…virtual fingers crossed.

What do you think? Does privacy mode matter to you? Do you sync your internet bookmarks/favorites between devices? Have you had experience with the latest updates? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

Update: I’m hearing from reliable sources that 8.4.6 is out there, and does not cause the Flash problems in non-Amazon browsers. Hopefully, if that one is good, they will post it at the software update site. My Fire hasn’t updated yet…

===

Bonus: Amazon recently updated the discontinued Kindle Touch. Yes, that’s right…contrary to what I see people say, Amazon does sometimes update discontinued devices…and in this case, it added some significant functionality (improving search, buying from a sample, and viewing the full dictionary definition).

You can get it from Amazon here:

Kindle Touch Software update 5.3.7

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

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22 Responses to “Why I don’t use Amazon’s Silk browser”

  1. Lady Galaxy Says:

    I really, really, REALLY wish Amazon would give the user a choice about whether or not to accept upgrades. I also wish they would give the ability to remove an update that brings changes that the user doesn’t like. I realize that if people don’t update their software it can cause problems for Amazon, but I don’t think Amazon realizes the problems that upgrades sometimes cause the consumer.

  2. jjhitt Says:

    When I made my first generation Fire a generic Android device, Silk was what I missed losing most. I never used the Fire much to read on, I prefer e-ink. Silk worked fine for the way I browse, even on discussion sites were new content arrives in a constant stream.

    If Amazon released a Silk for Android, I’d install it in heartbeat.

    I’ve never really put much faith in stealth and privacy modes. They’re good for keeping your spouse/roommate/parents from seeing where you’ve been visiting. But spammers and spooks have other ways of tracking your activity if they care enough.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, jjhitt!

      Interesting perspective on Silk…thanks!

      Absolutely, a stealth mode won’t protect you from intelligence folks. You didn’t list coworkers, but that’s definitely a group for some people. :)

      I think of it more like being able to walk on the sand and not mess up the beach by leaving footprints. :) Sure, somebody looking at the beach can see you are there, but you leave less of an impact on the environment.

      • jjhitt Says:

        Some of us are far enough off the norm that tracking us just throws the statistics off.

        Case in point: I bought the movie ‘Johns’, which dealt with teenage male prostitutes living on the street. My interest in the movie was in it’s rather accurate portrayal of homelessness. For more than a year after that my recommended items from Amazon always included one or more gay-interest items. I wasn’t offended, but those recommendations didn’t generate any sales for Amazon.

  3. Karen Salmons Says:

    I basically use the Dolphin browser on my KF HD 7″ so that I can stream K-Love Radio at work, which requires flash. Gonna really hurt me if I can’t use flash. I’ve noticed I don’t have the update yet either so hope they hold off till something can be figured out.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Karen!

      I’d recommend you go ahead and get

      TuneIn Radio

      or something similar. I use the Pro version, although I got it as a Free App of the Day, I think, but this should work for you. That way, you won’t be accessing the station through the browser, so I think you’ll be okay.

  4. Carolyn perreau Says:

    my main irritation with silk is you can’t listen to amazon music samples. kind of defeats pupose of samples

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Carolyn!

      If you use the Shop app (the first one on your left), you can listen to the music samples there…but you’re right, that does seem odd.

  5. Round up #192: Big Fall Books preview, e-commerce and unemployment | I Love My Kindle Says:

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  6. Edward Boyhan Says:

    I mostly use Silk. I did try Dolphin on my KF89, but it seemed to cause a lot of Dolphin/Silk browser conflicts — so I stopped using it. I would use a non-Silk browser, if I could find one that would support Lastpass’s auto password insertion facility on site login pages.

    Stealth mode doesn’t interest me — I guess I have nothing to hide (:grin). I don’t use bookmarks much — I use things like “Pocket” to save web sites/pages of interest.

    I was one of the ones that got the early release of 8.4.5, and for me (since I use Silk?), it solved a big problem. Previously when browsing the WSJ on my KF89, if there was a video embedded in a story, it would go to the WSJ’s video site, bring up the correct video, start to play it, and all I’d get was a black screen. On other devices the video played fine. Now with 8.4.5 the WSJ videos also play fine.

    I have not gotten the KT update (still on 5.3.2.1) — at some point I’ll do a manual install. Using highlighted text as the search argument would be a big plus for me.

  7. Patrice Brown Says:

    I use Silk and Dolphin — I like the “encryption” feature of Silk (I’m only assuming that it works, of course), but I need Dolphin for Flash. A certification program I’m pursuing requires Flash for its streaming-video course work, so if 7.4.5 is pushed onto my Kindle (and it hasn’t been as of August 8), my Kindle will go back in the drawer.

    Fingers crossed.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Patrice!

      You should get 7.4.6 at this point, which should mean your Flash videos will work.

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  9. sue Says:

    I hate silk! I constantly get “silk browser not responding” messages. At that point nothing works. It’s hung up for some unknown reason. Sometimes I have to shut down my kindle and start over. It’s very frustrating! Is there any way to get rid of silk??

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, sue!

      You can’t get rid of it, but you can use another browser instead. I use Maxthon, primarily, and that would be my recommendation…it’s not perfect, either, but it is my browser of choice.

      However, what you are describing is not normal for Silk. You might first want to try a couple of things.

      I would restart your Fire, if you haven’t done that. How you do that is a bit different on different models, but unplug it and hold in the power button for a full thirty seconds. On the HDX, it will restart on its own (you can let go once you see it restarting). On the HD, it will turn off. Let it rest for a minute, then power it up again.

      Second, you can reset Silk. Again, it matters which model of Fire you have. Do you know which one you’ve got? If not, check

      http://www.amazon.com/help/kindle/which

  10. Kathie Muth Says:

    I’m either selling my new Kindle 8.9 and case or sending it back—my fingers do not trigger the screen for some reason so it’s so frustrating—also, it’s just too complicated for me—too many steps to get the info I’m looking for—can’t get a Goodle tool bar like on my PC—I’m not impressed!!!

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Kathie!

      There could be something wrong with it, of course…they are generally pretty responsive. However, my Significant Other does have a medical issue which appears to make touchscreens less responsive: gloves designed to be used with them help.

      The first thing I would do is contact Kindle Support:

      http://www.amazon.com/kindlesupport

      They can help you determine next steps. You typically have thirty days to return a Kindle, which will be more cost effective for you than selling it, in most cases. That return period was extended over the holidays.

      The Kindle HDX (rather than the HD) has the new Mayday help feature, which makes everything much easier. However, if you are expecting a tablet to behave like your PC, you may be better off sticking with the PC.

      I actually generally find it quicker to get into what I need on my Fire than on my PC…it’s just that I can’t do as much once I get there. :) For example, checking e-mail on my Fire is much easier than on my PC: I can see if I have new messages right on the homescreen, for one thing.

      I do use Google (that’s what I assume you meant) functions on my Fire, although you are correct, you set them up differently.

  11. jeb case Says:

    Sue I’ve had my khd since the day it was released I also hate silk it freezes at least 10 times a day. As much as I hate to say it but if it doesn’t get fixed I will get a different tablet that doesn’t have silk.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Jeb!

      Rather than getting a different tablet, you can just get a different browser, As I mentioned in that post, I use the Maxthon browser…and I’ve used it on a few different models of Kindle Fire.

  12. Donald Says:

    I agree with you about have cross platform book marks….I do wish I could have Chrome on my KDL HD 8.9. I too am looking at another tablet because of that and the dang Carousel!

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Donald!

      The Carousel doesn’t bother me, and I’m not particularly looking for another tablet. :)

      What don’t you like about the Carousel in particular?

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