Adobe has announced new technologies that will allow SWF content to be indexed and searchable, not just text in the SWF, but also data generated programmatically and at runtime. Lots of good info in the SWF Searchability FAQ. Google is the first to leverage this new ability, and some great Google-centric context can be found on the Google Webmaster Central Blog entry entitled Improved Flash Indexing.

8 thoughts

  1. Jeff, you’re right that most Flash content is rendered to the page via JavaScript, but you can’t just blame that as a shortcoming on the part of Adobe or Google. The fact that JS doesn’t get rendered by spiders has been a known issue for as long as search engines has been around. It’s up to developers to put some alternative rendering code, such as object tags or embed tags, inside of some noscript tags.
    That won’t solve the problems of external content not being indexed, but if more developers included noscript content as a best practice, it would make Flash files much more accessible.

  2. Thanks Ben. While it is great that Adobe is trying to work with Google and Yahoo to provide a better search experience, it isn’t anywhere near perfect.
    A) Google/Yahoo will not execute JS. This means the majority of Flash sites will not show up. This is because almost ALL of the Flash online is put on the page via JS.
    B) External content isn’t indexed as part of the primary swf file. If there is content that is external (html, xml, flv, swf) they show up as being separate files in the index and they don’t show up as content in that first swf. The way most sites are built, the swf will show up in the search results as being empty.
    C) No indexing of Images or FLV’s

  3. Jeff,
    Agreed, it’s not there yet, this is step #1. The headless player that Google is using is actually capable of more than it’s being used for at this time. It’ll keep improving.
    — Ben

  4. It is more like step 1.5… 🙂
    Google announced some flash search functionality late last year. That was also using the Flash Search SDK that was released from Adobe. I am just curious as to what changed with this latest version of Google searching a Flash file.
    I think that the improvement that everyone is waiting for is the ability for Google to make use of JS and actually load real swf files. If it would really search 99% of the flash out there it would make our lives as developers easier. It isn’t fun having to develop an SEO version of your Flash content everytime you want to create a Flash website.

  5. Jeff,
    This is VERY different. That prior functionality was an API that allowed for the locating of strings within a SWF, but it could not actually execute a SWF, so no access to anything dynamic. What we’ve not released is a headless Flash Player, an actual player that is scripted programatically, allowing code to simulate all interaction – click, selections, on load events, and so on. Google (and soon Yahoo!) can use this Player to dig as deeply as they wish. And initially Google is indeed limiting how deep they dig.
    — Ben

  6. I agree. What we normally do is use .Net and use the XML and external assets that are pulled into the flash to create a non-flash version of the site. All of the content is displayed to the user exactly the same, just not in flash. Everytime the XML/images are updated, it is updated in both versions since they draw their content from the same XML.

  7. I still believe that the XSLT methos is way better that anything that is provided by Adobe yet and it is so much more friendly with developer :=)

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