Google Now Indexes Flash Content

flash happyAdobe announced earlier this month that they have teamed up with Google and Yahoo! to enhance search engine indexing of the Flash file format (SWF). The newly published SWF specifications allow the search engines to better capture rich internet application’s changing states where much of the Flash file’s content is revealed as the user interacts with the file, not just the opening screen. Google has already rolled out this feature, Yahoo! will be soon. (Graphic from ArsTechnica. Thanks Gene and Laris!)

From the Adobe press release:

 “Designers and Web developers have long been frustrated that search engines couldn’t better access the information within their content created with Flash technology. It’s great to see Adobe and the search engines working directly together to improve the situation,” said Danny Sullivan, editor-in-chief, SearchEngineLand.com. “The changes should help unlock information that’s previously been ‘invisible’ and will likely result in a better experience for searchers.” 

Read Google’s official blog entry on this new feature.

Now that we’ve launched our Flash indexing algorithm, web designers can expect improved visibility of their published Flash content, and you can expect to see better search results and snippets. There’s more info on the Webmaster Central blog  about the Searchable SWF integration.  

 ArsTechnica has a good read on this announcement as well:

 As anyone who has had the pleasure of doing web design and development through marketing agencies knows, Flash tends to be wildly popular among clients and wildly unpopular among, well, pretty much everyone else. Part of the reason for this is because Flash is so inherently un-Googleable; anything that goes into a Flash-only site is basically invisible to search engines and therefore, the world. That will no longer be the case, however, as Adobe announced today that it has teamed up with Google and Yahoo to make Flash files indexable by search engines 

Google says it’s able to do this by developing an algorithm that “explores Flash files in the same way that a person would,” by clicking buttons and manually going through Flash content. “Our algorithm remembers all of the text that it encounters along the way, and that content is then available to be indexed,” wrote the company. “We can’t tell you all of the proprietary details, but we can tell you that the algorithm’s effectiveness was improved by utilizing Adobe’s new Searchable SWF library.”

Of course, Google (and eventually Yahoo) won’t be able to index everything embedded within a Flash file—at least not yet. Anything that is image-related, including text that is embedded into images, will be invisible to the search engines for the time being. Google also noted that it can’t execute certain JavaScripts that may be embedded into a Flash file, and that while it indexes content that is contained in a separate HTML or XML file, it won’t be counted as part of the content in the Flash file. These are all issues that are being worked on, however, and are likely to change in the future.

New York Times published something on this, too.

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