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Google Now Indexing Flash Content

I found it hard to contain my joy when Google announced on its Official Blog that it is now able to index Flash content. Hooray!

According to Google, they have perfected an algorithm, "that explores Flash files in the same way that a person would, by clicking buttons, entering input, and so on. Our algorithm remembers all of the text that it encounters along the way, and that content is then available to be indexed."

This is not in the future; Google is indexing Flash sites right now.

While this is a huge step in the direction of having Flash files as crawlable as HTML files, some major hurdles still need to be overcome.  Currently, the only content being indexed is embedded directly in the swf. "This includes Flash 'gadgets' such as buttons or menus, self-contained Flash websites, and everything in between," as well as URLs.  It doesn't, however, index content loaded externally from HTML, XML, or other swfs. Those files will be indexed as a separate resource and not associated with the parent Flash file.

Another major limitation is the inability to see Flash files loaded using Javascript. This is unfortunate since a large number of Flash files are embedded using swfObject.  Also, they do not index non-textual content like images or FLV files; essentially, Google's only indexing text.

As a Flash developer and designer, I've learned that the greatest limitation to Flash is its separation from other elements on the page. With getting information in and out of Flash using External Interface in Actionsript -- and now that Flash content is now beginning to be indexed -- the tide is turning for Flash accessibility.

Read more about the SEO-related benefits of this new announcement from our very own faux-hawked Josh Chambers. (And yes, Josh, a post on how to design SEO-friendly Flash is forthcoming. And no, you still can't sit at the designers' lunch table).

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