Google announced today that they have improved their flash indexing capabilities. Last year they announced an update to their flash indexing, and let’s just say it wasn’t well received. This time around, Google claims to be able to index external flash resources. For those non-Flash experts out there, SWF files use an external file to load content. This content can be in the form of HTML, XML or even another SWF file. Google’s update analyzes and extracts the content in that file, and then they index it.
My initial reaction (which was confirmed by the screenshot they provided) was this will be horrible from a user’s perspective. Depending on what type of content lives in that external file, what Google extracts from it could look like jibberish. Here is the example screenshot they provided of a search result that utilizes this update:
It’s not the ideal scenario for a user, but then again developers weren’t optimizing these files because the search engines weren’t indexing them. This could be a great opportunity for websites utilizing Flash to update those content files to be more search engine friendly.
To date, Google’s search engine is capable of the following when encountering a Flash file:
- Index textual content displayed as a user interacts with the file. We click buttons and enter input, just like a user would.
- Discover links within Flash files.
- Load external resources and associate the content with the parent file.
- Index sites scripted with AS1, AS2 and AS3, even if the ActionScript is obfuscated.
Time and testing will determine how effective this update will be. I’m just happy Google is continuing to try and improve their flash indexing capabilities.
What do you think? Will this affect your usage of Flash? Will you be updating your files?