Amazon has just released their Silk Web Browser for the Amazon Fire TV, Fire TV Stick, and Fire TV Edition television. They have been working on a browser for their streaming set-top box since at least March when it was discovered that installing the Silk browser from their Fire tablets would display a Fire TV specific tutorial. The browser leaked in beta form a few months later when it briefly appeared in the Amazon Appstore for a few hours, but now it seems like the app is ready for the general public.
The Silk browser is currently only compatible with the 1st and 2nd generation Fire TV, the 2nd generation Fire TV Stick, and all version of Element and Westinghouse’s Fire TV Edition televisions. Strangely, the browser is not yet available to install on Amazon’s newest Fre TV model, the new 3rd generation “pendent” Fire TV. That’s possibly due to it being the first device to run Amazon’s new Fire OS 6 operating system. There may be incompatibility issues between the Silk browser and the new operating system. The app’s description says it will be available on the new Fire TV next month. The browser is also not compatible with the 1st generation Fire TV Stick, which could be due to that device having a significantly weaker CPU than all other Fire TV models.
Launching the browser loads Bing.com, the default search engine, and a pop-up message that informs you to press the menu button on the remote “to search the web, enter URLs, and more.” The default search engine can be changed from Bing to either Google or Yahoo in the app’s settings. While the browser loads Bing.com the first time it’s launched, there doesn’t seem to be an option to set a home page. Instead, the app remembers the last page you viewed and reloads it the next time you open the browser, even if you force quit the app.
Pressing the menu button brings up the main interface of the browser. At the top are buttons to search/enter URLs, go back a page, go forward a page, request the desktop version of the currently loaded page, and to bookmark the currently loaded page. You can also press the back button on the Fire TV remote to go back to the page you were previously viewing.
Selecting the first button to search or enter a URL brings up standard Fire TV onscreen keyboard. Thanks to a recent Fire TV software update, you can press the microphone button on the voice remote to dictate text while the keyboard is visible. It doesn’t do a particularly good job of recognizing spoken URLs, so you’re better off saying the name of a website and using a search engine to reach it.
Below the main set of buttons is a horizontally scrolling list of saved bookmarks. The last bookmark you saved is at the front of the list and there doesn’t appear to be a way to rearrange the list. You only have the option to highlight a bookmark and press the menu button to delete it.
Below your bookmarks is a list of “trending on the web” articles. It’s not clear where this list comes from and there doesn’t appear to be any options to customize the list. Below the trending news list are options to clear data, report issues, view help documentation, and access the app’s extensive settings.
While browsing the web, web pages take up the entire screen with no user interface or buttons. You press the menu button to return to the options screen, where you can load URLs and bookmarks. Amazon has decided to use an onscreen cursor, similar to my Downloader app’s built-in browser, that you move around with the directional buttons on the remote. Early versions of the Silk browser used an intricate way of locating and selecting links on the page with a series of button combinations. While it worked fairly well, it seems Amazon has abandoned the idea. The cursor on the screen doubles as a loading icon and turns blue when it is over a link you can click.
In the Silk browser’s description, Amazon touts its ability to “easily control web videos” using the play/pause, fast forward, and rewind buttons on the Fire TV remote. Videos embedded into web pages work very well. You need to use the cursor to hover over and click a video to begin playing it, but once it’s playing, you can use the media buttons on the remote to play/pause the video and seek through the video using the fast-forward and rewind buttons. You can also press the full-screen button, using the onscreen cursor, to fill the screen with the video.