John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

Adobe Makes Web's Flash Crawl

Flash content on the Web may be slow-loading and occasionally nonintuitive, but at least now it’s searchable.

Adobe (ADBE) has conceived of a way for search engines to index Flash content, even pre-existing Flash content, without the need for developer intervention. It’s made content encoded in the Flash file format (SWF), which was previously undiscoverable to search engines, discoverable–and it’s given Google (GOOG) and Yahoo (YHOO) the tools necessary to discover it.

As Ryan Stewart, an Adobe evangelist, explained: “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.”

Google will begin doing that today; Yahoo, whenever it manages. A big change for both companies, especially Google, which has long advised Webmasters concerned about their PageRank to use Flash sparingly. “In general, search engines are text based,” the company explains in its “Creating a Google-friendly site” FAQ. “This means that in order to be crawled and indexed, your content needs to be in text format. This doesn’t mean that you can’t include images, Flash files, videos and other rich media content on your site; it just means that any content you embed in these files should also be available in text format or it won’t be accessible to search engines.”

Today that changes. And now, developers can use Flash to their hearts’ content, without mucking about with workarounds to ensure the dynamic content it makes possible is properly indexed and ranked.


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work