Amazon's cloud extinguishes Kindle Fire?

A number of Kindle Fire users are reporting Internet connectivity issues that are preventing them from browsing the web, according to posts to Amazon's community forums. Devices connect to WiFi but not to the Internet, or speed drops dramatically.

The trouble was widely reported today and attributed to WiFi. However, based on a cursory technical review and thorough exploration of forum posts, BetaNews sees a likely different cause: Some kind of breakdown between Amazon's Silk browser, Amazon's supporting web services and local ISP connection -- relating to server caching, we suspect.

If this was a WiFi issue, Kindle Fire wouldn't connect at all. Common theme among the reports: WiFi connects, Internet doesn't. That suggests a different problem, either with the network (such as IP assignment failure) or something else.

Kindle Fire uses the cloud in order to speed up the mobile browsing process. Using what Amazon calls a "split architecture", Silk makes on-the-fly decisions about how to route incoming and outgoing traffic, whether it be in the typical fashion or through the cloud.

That dependence on the cloud to make the web work will cause the Kindle to appear as if it has limited or no connectivity in the event of a failure of one of these channels.

"We got the Kindle Fire today and have had a very hard time establishing a connection to our home Wi-Fi network", one user reports. "We have never had problems w/ other device, but the Fire will not connect -- it times out".

Even more strange? The problem comes and goes. "Mine was not working for an entire day, and the next morning, poof...working again", another user laments.

Many ISPs cache content to speed up delivery, particularly for commonly accessed pages. We suspect that for some Kindle Fires the practice interferes with Silk's cloud-dependent architecture. If a certain route Silk uses fails, the caching server will continue to have issues until that cache expires. This could explain the issue where browsing works poorly one night, and seemingly fixes itself the next morning.

Another user reports the speed issue mentioned above. "I seem to be having an issue where my Fire can connect to my router, but my internet's speed immediately plummets down to where it can only download at 1.0 kb/s", the post states. "As soon as I make my Kindle forget my network the speed jumps right back up".

A breakdown with Amazon's cloud, again focusing on ISP caching, could again explain performance problems.

BetaNews could not reproduce the issues on our in-house Kindle Fires. There's no official confirmation of the issue either: Amazon has not responded to our requests for comment.

Is there a way to fix the problem? That's not clear. Some Kindle Fire users report updating their software to the most recent versions -- 6.1 or 6.2 -- fixing the problem, while others say they must physically reset their routers. On the software updates, it is not clear whether the issue is addressed as Amazon only states that the updates "provides improvements to the operation of your Kindle Fire". Additionally, the threads in the forum show that this method has not worked for everybody.

Router reset lends some credence to the theory there is breakdown between Silk, Amazon's cloud and the ISP. When the router resets, it acquires a new IP address from the ISP, which in turn may route the path to Amazon's cloud servers differently.

User Cindy G explains how she fixed her problem by using these solutions. "What did finally work was this -- I manually downloaded/installed the 6.1 update, and then pushed the reset button on my router -- this finally made it work", she said. "Power cycling the router didn't help, I had to actually reset it".

Regardless, until Amazon speaks up its hard to say what is going on -- although the company's silence may indicate that even they are befuddled by Fire's connection issues.

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