Google, Yahoo to Make Flash Searchable


Adobe Systems has teamed up with Google and Yahoo to make content mixed with its Flash file format easier to index. The software maker predicts a big impact on how and what pages are sorted in the rankings of those search engines. Just give it some time.

The good news for everyone who has added Flash .SWF files to their page is they don’t have to make any chances to the page code at all. The work will be handled by the spider programs from Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) and Yahoo (NASDAQ: YHOO) that crawl Web sites.

For end users, it means more relevant search results, according to Justin Everett-Church, senior product manager for Flash at Adobe (NASDAQ: ADBE). “The perfect page for you may have been out there, but it was all Flash content, so it had low search ranking. This will mean it will have a high ranking.”

The problem for search engines finding Flash-based pages is due to the dynamic nature of Flash, and pretty much any Web runtime, said Everett-Church. A HTML file is a flat file with links, while a Flash .SWF file has various states. Based on user interaction, you could go to different parts of the Flash file.

When a search spider reaches a HTML page, it goes through the tags but discards SWF file references. With this new indexing method, when it finds an SWF file, it passes the job off to an optimized search program to examine the SWF file’s contents.

For example, say a Web site is full of links to other pages, but instead of using a hotlink, they have the user click on a Flash button. Standard search crawlers would discard this, but the new crawler will be able to follow the button’s logic and look at the link behind it.

“Google has been working hard to improve how we can read and discover SWF files,” said Bill Coughran, senior vice president of engineering at Google, in a statement. “Through our recent collaboration with Adobe, we now help website owners that choose to design sites with Adobe Flash software by indexing this content better. Improving how we crawl dynamic content will ultimately enhance the search experience for our users.”

Google will be going live with the new SWF indexing technology this week, while Yahoo plans to release it at an undetermined point in the future, according to Everett-Church.

He expects this change will have a big effect on search results. “There is so much content out there that has been indexed but not to the thoroughness that was possible,” he told “It will take a while for Google to spider all the SWFs out there, but as it goes you are going to see a big effect. One is that there will be more search results, and the ones higher up will be the ones with the great experience you’d expect with a Flash app.”

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