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Flash Content Now Searchable

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In Adobe’s continuing push to eliminate the common objections to Flash adoption comes news that SWF files, the binary format for the Flash Player, is now indexable by Google and Yahoo’s search engines.  This is important news for application developers using or considering using Adobe Flex, and the resulting applications will now be searchable.

Ted Patrick of Adobe blogged about the announcement:
Tonight Adobe is announcing a collaboration with Google and Yahoo! to enhance the searchability of SWF content by helping their spiders playback SWFs in the Flash Player runtime. The project runs SWF files within web spiders and allows all contents within a SWF file to be read by both major search engines. The cool part is that this also covers dynamic data loaded in from requests to a server, these are typically ignored in both AJAX and SWF applications.
Adobe’s Ryan Stewart details the advancement:
So what does that mean? We are giving a special, search-engine optimized Flash Player to Yahoo and Google which is going to help them crawl through every bit of your SWF file. This Flash Player will act just like a person would in some cases. It will click on your buttons, it will move through the states of your application, get data from the server when your application normally would, and it will capture all of the text and data that you’ve got inside of your Flash-based application. We’ve basically provided a very powerful looking glass into SWF files so Google and Yahoo can pull out meaningful information.

The best part? You don’t have to do anything. Any SWF you already have out there will be indexed by this new player. Of course it won’t automatically be as good as HTML. Google won’t automatically deep-link your content or pull out unique URLs. So overnight I’m not sure a lot will change. But the most important part of this announcement to me is the fact that HTML and Flash can be on the same general footing when it comes to search engine optimization.
Stewart’s reference to “deep linking” is a feature introduced with Flex 3 to allow developers to add support for traditional book marking and history management within Flash applications.  Developers can now take advantage of searchable Flash content and deep linking to deploy Flash applications where search engines can link directly into the exact content the user requested, resulting in more traditional web experiences while still taking advantage of the richer Flash runtime.

This is an important step forward for the Flash platform, as it eliminates yet another challenge for those considering building applications in Flex.

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