Amazon has a super light browser for Indian Android users

One of Google’s big advantages in running the Android platform is that its Chrome browser becomes the natural choice for many. Yes, there are plenty of alternatives in the Google Play store, and some manufacturers add their own, but for most people Chrome is all they’ll ever know.

So it seems odd that ecommerce giant Amazon has very quietly released its own internet app on the store – and the lack of fanfare isn’t the only odd thing about it. For one thing, it has the most generic name imaginable: “Internet: fast, lite and private” – which is a bit like calling your new brand of snack “Crisps: crunchy, golden and tasty.” Secondly, it’s only available in India – going to the Google Play page in any other country will show the app as unavailable. Thirdly, Amazon already has its own browser for its Kindle tablets – Silk – and this is an altogether different proposition.

So what set this apart? Well, as its slightly silly name implies, it has three USPs: it’s fast, light (or “lite” if you really, really must) and private. I can’t comment on the speed, given it isn’t available in the UK, but it certainly is small, weighing in at under 2mb. For comparison’s sake, Chrome is 21MB, Firefox is 19.9MB and even the svelte Opera browser tips the scales at 14.7MB. The privacy credentials are ticked off by the app not asking for extra permissions, and Amazon also claims that it doesn’t “collect your private data like other browsers.”

Yes, but why?

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The real question is why Amazon has chosen to do this, and on one level the answer is really simple: having reached near saturation in Europe and America, tech giants are increasingly reaching out to developing nations for their new customers. Android is now on two billion devices, so is pushing out Android Go for cheaper hardware. Facebook has two billion members, so is pushing its internet services out to developing nations to snap up the next billion. By that metric, Amazon is just following common business sense and fishing in a bigger pool.

Except Amazon isn’t like Google or Facebook. In the most basic terms, with Amazon you’re paying for products, and with Google and Facebook, you are the product. In other words, the services are free because of advertising that can be microtargeted because of the data you willingly give away for free services.

So yes, Amazon has a lot of products, but they all tie in with the ultimate aim of making you buy more stuff. The Kindle is locked to Amazon’s own ebooks, the Echo makes it easy to buy things with your voice, and the Dash buttons are intended to make impulse purchasing even more of an impulse. Even Amazon’s original TV shows is a way to push people to buying Prime so that they – you guessed it – buy more products. “When we win a Golden Globe, it helps us sells shoes,” founder Jeff Bezos famously said.

How does a small, private browser targeted to a single country help with that grand aim? Probably less effectively than its other methods, but it’s no coincidence that Amazon seems to be prominently featured as a quick link in all the screenshots.

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