The Rise Of The Sticky Cloud

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Tim Higgins

I suppose we should have no illusions about our privacy on the Internet by now. After all, unless you are super-paranoid and run everything through an encrypted proxy, your ISP knows much more about you than you’d be comfortable with if you really thought about it.

Same goes for Google, especially now that tablet and smartphone browsers and Chrome dispense with the separate Search box and send everything you type into the formerly URL-only box to Google.

The iPad always wins

So why not have Amazon know everthing about you, too? That’s pretty much what is going to happen once the Kindle Fire that Amazon announced today gets online when it ships in November.

There are already too many data leeches that suck us dry of our personal information in exchange for free email, games, coupons or just the chance to post our most intimate (and mundane) details for the world to see.

Now Amazon’s Silk Web Browser promises to speed up the Kindle Fire’s web browsing by putting Amazon’s powerful EC2 cloud infrastructure between you and every web browsing request you make.

The give is that Silk’s backend compresses images and pulls content from Amazon’s caches when appropriate and available to minimize the number and size of requests required to load web pages you request and therefore speed up browsing. Amazon also says that Silk analyzes your browsing habits to anticipate the pages that you might want to view next and pre-fetches them.

What Amazon gets from this is detailed information on your personal browsing, buying and media consumption habits, all tied to your Amazon ID. Google, of course does this too, but has the disadvantage of not requiring you to have a Gmail account before it lets you run a web search.

Joe Brockmeier’s post over on ReadWriteCloud speculates that if this works well for Amazon, we can expect to see Google, Apple and Microsoft to come out with similar services, each trying to move us to its section of the cloud.

Treated separately, none of this is new. ISPs have always been able to track every bit that flows through their servers. "Portals" like Yahoo and AOL before it (which started as an ISP) have always wanted you to never leave their websites. And browser acceleration technologies like today’s Skyfire and Opera Turbo have been around since PDA’s (remember them?) first crawled out of the primordial disconnected ooze, grew rudimentary browsers and jumped onto the Internet.

The difference today is the power and reach of the companies that are building what they hope will become very sticky clouds. Apple, Amazon and Google have very broad reach, deep pockets and like any company, hope to become monopolies. They know that cheap and easy-to-consume entertainment is the drug and they all want to become our sole supplier. And they also know that we’ll give away our personal information and watch ads to keep the cost of our habit low.

Just remember what you’re giving up each time you type into your smartphone or tablet’s browser box. And what you will gladly surrender to Amazon in exchange for a $200 tablet.

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