Here’s what html5test.com spews out when testing Kindle Fire browser for HTML5 support:
Your browser scores 196 out of a total of 450 points
Parsing rules 1/11
<!DOCTYPE html> triggers standards mode Yes ✔
HTML5 tokenizer No ✘
HTML5 tree building No ✘
HTML5 defines rules for embedding SVG and MathML inside a regular HTML document. Support for SVG and MathML is not required though, so bonus points are awarded if your browser supports embedding these two technologies.
SVG intext/html No ✘
MathML intext/html No ✘
canvas element Yes ✔
2D context Yes ✔
Text Yes ✔
video element Yes ✔
Subtitle support No ✘
Poster image support Yes ✔
The following tests go beyond the requirements of the HTML5 specification and are not counted towards the total score. If a browser supports one or more video codecs, two bonus points are awarded for each codec.
MPEG-4 support No ✘
H.264 support No ✘
Ogg Theora support No ✘
WebM support No ✘
Audio 20/20 + 1 bonus
audio element Yes ✔
The following tests go beyond the requirements of the HTML5 specification and are not counted towards the total score. If a browser supports one or more audio codecs, one bonus point is awarded for each codec.
PCM audio support No ✘
MP3 support Yes ✔
AAC support No ✘
Ogg Vorbis support No ✘
WebM support No ✘
Embedding custom non-visible data No ✘
New or modified elements
Section elements Partial ○
Grouping content elements No ✘
Text-level semantic elements Partial ○
Interactive elements Partial ○
Global attributes or methods
hidden attribute No ✘
Dynamic markup insertion Yes ✔
input type=search Yes ✔
input type=tel Yes ✔
input type=url Yes ✔
input type=email Yes ✔
input type=datetime Partial ○
input type=date Partial ○
input type=month Partial ○
input type=week Partial ○
input type=time Partial ○
input type=datetime-local Partial ○
input type=number Partial ○
input type=range Partial ○
input type=color Partial ○
input type=checkbox Yes ✔
input type=image Partial ○
textarea Partial ○
select Partial ○
fieldset Partial ○
datalist No ✘
keygen Partial ○
output No ✘
progress No ✘
meter No ✘
Field validation Yes ✔
Association of controls and forms Partial ○
Other attributes Partial ○
CSS selectors Partial ○
Events Yes ✔
Form validation Partial ○
User interaction 34/36
Drag and drop
Attributes Partial ○
Events Yes ✔
Editing elements Yes ✔
Editing documents Yes ✔
APIs Yes ✔
History and navigation 5/5
Session history Yes ✔
Microdata No ✘
Web applications 19/20
Application Cache Yes ✔
Custom scheme handlers Yes ✔
Custom content handlers Yes ✔
Custom search providers No ✘
Sandboxediframe Yes ✔
Seamlessiframe No ✘
Geolocation No ✘
3D context No ✘
Native binary data No ✘
Cross-document messaging Yes ✔
Server-Sent Events No ✘
Both Mozilla and Opera do support the WebSocket protocol in their latest browsers, but have disabled it due to a fundamental security issue with the protocol. Once the protocol has been updated it is expected they will re-enable this feature.
WebSocket No ✘
FileReader API No ✘
FileSystem API No ✘
Session Storage Yes ✔
Local Storage Yes ✔
IndexedDB No ✘
The Web SQL Database specification is no longer being updated and has been replaced by IndexedDB. Because at least 3 vendors have shipped implementations of this specification we still include it in this test.
Web SQL Database Yes ✔
Web Workers No ✘
Shared Workers No ✘
Local multimedia 0/20
Access the webcam No ✘
Web Notifications No ✘
Text selection Yes ✔
Scroll into view Yes ✔
Kindle Cloud Reader
While Amazon’s Kindle Cloud Reader app might have been a response to Apple’s restrictive app store purchasing rules, it manages to be one of the best examples of the potential inherent in HTML5 applications. Users are able to enjoy all of the benefits of a local Kindle reading app without going through those pesky app stores and their associated complications.
Normally those complications are minimal, of course, but after Apple almost put an end to the Kindle app for iOS users it’s probably a good thing to break away. The one major complaint for users is that up until now only Apple’s Safari and Google’s Chrome browsers were supported. Now even more customers will get to join in.
Users of Mozilla Firefox can now access the Reader so long as they are running version 6 or later. This significantly expands the user base for the app by bringing in the most popular web browser worldwide. By most estimates Firefox is more popular than Chrome and Safari put together by a fair margin yet, even with Google making their presence increasingly known.
As has been the case previously, users of the Kindle Cloud Reader app will enjoy pretty much every basic feature they are used to from the Kindle platform both online and off. This includes the ability to read in a variety of font sizes and styles, a couple different color schemes, and the ability to bookmark. You can choose which of your Kindle books to keep locally for times when web access is questionable or simply not desired.
The only real downside, assuming that you aren’t a big fan of Internet Explorer who is therefore still left out of the fun, is the inability to annotate and highlight. Supposedly this feature is expected to be implemented in the future, but as yet nothing is there. You are, of course, able to read and access any and all annotations and such that you might have entered via another device or app.As always, I can’t say there’s any substitute for an actual Kindle eReader, if for no other reason than the major advantage they have in the E INK displays, but this brings a significant level of functionality to virtually any personal device.
The Kindle Cloud Reader, along with Amazon’s other cloud services, will be especially important in the near future as the Kindle Fire finally begins to ship. The company’s dedication to cloud computing and digital media delivery is a large part of the motivation behind the release of the tablet in the first place. While Firefox is obviously not a factor with the device itself, this move indicates an obvious continuing interest in updating and expanding the feature set of the app.
Users interested in checking out the Kindle Cloud Reader can access the device in any major non-IE browser at http://read.amazon.com or http://www.amazon.com/cloudreader or through the direct link in the Kindle Store.
Up until now, despite certain efforts to use the Kindle for iOS app to encourage media embedding in eBooks, the Kindle line has really been all about the bare content. Yes, page formatting is not only possible but important, but for the most part writers and publishers have been restricted so much by the format and the capabilities of the devices used to read their books that the only thing really possible was the basic layout stuff. Now, with the Kindle Fire on the horizon, things are changing.
Amazon has already got a lot planned to take advantage of the color screen on their newest Kindle. Kid’s books and magazines will be getting a huge push, for example. There has even already been some fairly major controversy in the world of comics over Amazon’s exclusive deal with DC for some digital editions and the repercussions this is having on that industry. Naturally none of this would be simple to pull off using the rather outdated Mobi 7 eBook format. Amazon’s solution is a new release called “Kindle Format 8″. Over time it will completely replace the obsolete format, though all Kindle devices will continue to be able to access these older files.
Kindle Format 8 brings the power of HTML5 and CSS3 to the eBook. This gets you greatly expanded layout control, including fixed layouts. That’s going to be especially important for things like children’s books and comics, where relative positioning of the illustration is important to meaning. It will also finally make possible footnotes, which will please academic publishers among others. Personally I’m hoping that that particular application won’t take off, since there is a lot of potential in the Kindle‘s existing annotation framework if they could figure out how to adapt it to replace footnotes, but that may be an unrealistic hope now. On top of formatting, Kindle books will now be able to contain their own specific custom fonts, text displayed over images, and a number of other welcome updates.
This update is anything but a surprise, in a way. Existing popular formats like EPUB and Mobipocket are already based on HTML, so there is a certain sense of inevitability to the development of a new eBook format based on modern standards. The greater functionality will be welcome for many, should the development tools prove effective. Both KindleGen 2, the Kindle Format 8 publishing tool, and Kindle Previewer 2 will be available soon, assuming they’re not already out by the time this is published.
While the Kindle Fire will be the first device in the Kindle line to support this update, eReaders should be updated to support KF8 within the next several months. No word yet, to the best of my knowledge, if Amazon will be making any effort to update either of the first two generations of Kindle to allow for compatibility, but the currently available devices should have no trouble. Hopefully users will enjoy a greatly improved reading experience once authors and publishers get the hang of the new tools.
Fascinated as we are by the platform here, Kindle users are far from the only group to be inconvenienced by Apple’s in-app purchasing guideline enforcement. Apple built the popularity of their iPads on the availability and functionality of apps being developed by other parties, only to change their minds once an ownership base was established. Certainly totally within their rights to do, but more than a little unpleasant for both the app developers and users who are accustomed to better treatment. Amazon has retaliated by releasing the Kindle Cloud Reader, which completely bypasses the iPad’s App Store, and they aren’t the only ones looking at the options.
Kobo, the leading international Kindle competition, has announced plans to follow in Amazon’s footsteps with an HTML5 Reading app of their own. When it is complete, users should be able to read their Kobo purchases on any device with a web browser, effectively bypassing Apple’s restrictions. You should even be able to save the app to your iOS device Home page for seamless integration. As with the Kindle Cloud Reader, users will be able to sync their collections for offline browsing, which addresses the largest possible shortcoming of a browser-based solution to the problem.
The only major problem with apps like these is the loss of Apple App Store exposure. To effectively bypass Apple’s fees it is important to already have a substantial user base, since random discovery is far less likely. Existing Kobo customers will have little problem, and will likely welcome the chance to make use of the store again without the price increases that would have been necessary to profitably continue operation within Apple’s guidelines. New users will almost certainly be harder to come by. We can expect to see continued support for the Kobo iOS app as a result, for exposure’s sake if nothing else.
This is not the only obstacle that Kobo has had to face recently. With the end of Borders, their US distribution partner, exposure will be harder to come by in the current largest eBook market. Although they remained separate companies, Borders was directly linked to the Kobo eReader in the minds of consumers for having been the first ones to bring to to the US. Regaining that kind of presence will be a slow process.
Outside the US, the Kobo Store is reported to have perhaps the best selection of eBooks currently available. Due to ongoing licensing right disputes, the Kindle Store is not yet always able to consistently provide the same level of service that Kobo has managed to over such a large number of markets. The release of this HTML5 app should do them a great deal of good in expanding their lead, given the number of Tablet PCs hitting the market recently. This may allow readers to enjoy the service even in countries where localized selections are not currently available and shipping the Kobo eReader itself is problematic.
We can expect the official release of the new Kobo app later this year.
Kindle Cloud Reader
Kindle for the Web has been around for almost a year and it seemed as it wasn’t going anywhere at all. Seemingly nothing happened even when Google came out with their online eBook offering. Then some more time passed and Apple started pressing eReader apps into selling eBooks via Apple app store. This would mean 30% commission for Apple but it would also cause eBook sellers like B&N, Sony and Amazon to loose (even more) money on eBook sales. Moving to the web seemed like a logical choice. Eventually Apple backed out and thing returned to status quo. However a few days ago Kindle did significantly expand their Web presence by releasing Kindle Cloud Reader (https://read.amazon.com/).
Kindle Cloud Reader is named in the same fashion as Amazon Cloud Player since “cloud” seems to be the most recent “magic buzz word”. It enables Kindle users to read their Kindle books in the browser almost without having to install anything on their devices. I put “almost” because Chrome users are asked to install optional browser extension that enables offline reading and Safari users are asked to extend 50 megabytes of browser database storage to the web-app for the same purposes. The reader is based on HTML5
Currently only it only works in Google Chrome (on Windows, Mac, Linux and Chromebook) and Apple Safari (on Mac and iPad, but not iPhone and iPod Touch) browsers. It accomplishes a whole lot and really nothing at the same time. Lets take a closer look:
- Kindle is now safe from Apple app store assaults since using the web application is a viable option. Apple blocking or otherwise preventing users from using the web application will open doors to so much legal and PR trouble that even billions of the cash that Apple stashed so far might not be enough to get them out of it. However as we’ve already seen, Apple wouldn’t go as far as removing a popular eReader apps from their app store anyway since it would accomplish nothing and hurt everyone (including Apple). The fact that Kindle Cloud Reader comes with book store “optimized for tablets” it seems very likely to me that one of the original goals behind the project was to bypass Apple app store if need be.
- Linux users now have official access to Kindle books. However you could get Kindle on Linux in the past as well though the virtue of Wine Windows emulator. But even if it wasn’t the case, Linux market share is still so small that most companies just choose to ignore it altogether without noticeable effect on the bottom line. No disrespect towards Linux and it’s users intended – just stating the facts as they stand
- Chromebook users can now access Kindle eBooks. Nice, but given their current market share you can’t call this anything but future investment and hedging the risks of the emerging tablet market.
- While all platforms (except Linux and Chromebook) had official support for Kindle via apps it is nice to have the option to forgo app installation altogether. I’ve worked in the software industry for about 15 years already and my strong belief is that every application or feature is a bug waiting to happen. This is especially true in modern fast paced “release early, release often” environment in which even my TV and receiver want a firmware update (that always includes bug fixes) on a monthly basis (not to mention all apps that I have installed on either iPad or Android. So having fewer apps is better. So far browser has been the best way of isolating apps from the OS and from one another.
- Kindle Cloud Reader will fully match what Google Books has to offer once all popular browsers are supported. However it’s not like Google Books is currently a serious player in the eBook market anyway.
- Another benefit of not having an app is the fact that it is easier for users to get their foot into the Kindle door since you don’t even need to install an app (never mind having a Kindle device as was the case a few years back) to start reading. Instant gratification is only one click away… However Amazon Cloud Reader is not fully integrated into Amazon Kindle Store yet. Although there is “Read now in Kindle Cloud Reader” button on the thank you page after the purchase, that button is nowhere to be found on the book product page. More importantly browsers that hold the largest market share (Internet Explorer, Firefox) on the most popular operating system (Windows) are not supported! 80% of users are left out. This may be the reason for the lack of book store integration. Users are more likely to install eBook reading app than a new browser and change their year old habits.
- While you can read the books in the browser (if your browser is supported), some features are missing such as:
- taking new notes and highlighting (though previous annotations are visible
- searching within the book (or your book collection). You can however search within the page using browser search function (Ctrl-F)
- Text-to-speech is not there. Given how complex the HTML document structure is (iframes within iframes and a lot of nested tags) I’m not sure if screen reader software will be able to handle it.
- There is only so much DRM one can put into browser app. With offline storage, pirating Kindle books would become a breeze. However it’s not like it wasn’t done before. Kindle DRM was broken in the past and even if it wasn’t there plenty of books circulating in torrents and shady websites anyway. You can find most of the books you would want with minimal effort. So not pirating is a conscious choice based on good nature and availability of legitimate purchase options rather than result of DRM.
Although it may seem that I’m overall critical and negative towards Kindle Cloud Reader, I’m not. For all it’s current shortcomings it has a great potential and these shortcomings can be easily overcome. Developing web apps is cheap if you have the right infrastructure (which Amazon certainly does) so Amazon can add all of the missing features even if there will be little demand for the Cloud Reader. They will do it just because they can or “just in case”.
Well written AJAX web application is truly cross-platform: I’ve seen the same app run on all Windows browsers, Mac browsers, iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch, Windows Phone 7, all kinds of Android devices, Linux, and even Kindle 3 browser. Not being bound by acceptance gates by numerous isolated app stores – that’s true freedom. Web app that doesn’t need to be installed and opens with a single click is also the ultimate instant gratification that will help many users get their first taste of Kindle.
All in all Kindle Cloud Reader is mostly about potential now. Whether this potential will be fully realized is up to Amazon.
Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) has recently announced the Kindle Previewer, a feature that will allow users to sample the texts of interesting eBooks directly through the main Amazon web site without recourse to any sort of special software. Users will simply be able to open the site from within any HTML5-compatible browser and view a bit of the book in question. Should it be what they’re looking for, these same users can click on a conveniently placed “Buy” type of button that will put through the purchase and send your new book to your Kindle, Cell Phone, Computer, iPad, or whatever you happen to be Kindle-ing on these days!
This announcement only emphasizes the often-overlooked fact that the Kindle platform is about a lot more than the Kindle device. Whether the hardware continues to do well or not, and I sincerely believe that it will be even better than ever with the upcoming release and a fairly steady stream of firmware updates adding new features all the time, Amazon isn’t going to be letting go of their grip on the eBook marketplace any time soon. Paper books are here to stay, as many people have said since the eReader concept began to become popular, but never again are they likely to be the exclusive medium for their content.