Adobe, Google, Yahoo enabling Flash searches

Flash content to be included in Internet search results

In a move that could add substantial volumes of Flash content to Internet search results, Adobe is working with Google and Yahoo to provide optimized Flash Player technology to enhance the searching of this content.

The project, being announced Tuesday, will enable searches on Flash content to return text and links, which can then be indexed, said Justin Everett-Church, Adobe senior product manager for the Flash Player. Content from a Flash application or even a game or advertisement will be available to search engines. Pages containing a Flash .SWF file will be returned in a search.

"The Flash Player is going to be used by Google and Yahoo on their servers to run Flash content at runtime," Everett-Church said. "This means much better search results for end-users. [Until now], it has been a challenge to search Flash content on the Web."

Google will begin offering Flash search capabilities Tuesday while Yahoo plans to do so in a future update to Yahoo Search. With Google's rollout, millions of rich Internet applications and dynamic Web experiences utilizing Flash will become searchable without the need for companies and developers to alter the content.

Adobe's move was described as a positive one by an analyst in the search engine space, who nonetheless said she would take a wait-and-see approach to gauge the exact benefits.

"Historically, search engines haven't been able to crawl Flash content at all," said Vanessa Fox, an editor at Search Engine Land, an online journal covering the search industry.

"I'm sort of reserving my judgment a little," she said. It is good that search engines are working with Adobe to surface Flash-based information, but the impact remains to be seen, Fox said. She added she has not been able to get examples of how many more pages can be indexed via the project.

"It could be a large impact or it also could be really small," said Fox. There are ecommerce sites based on Flash technology that now could make their content more visible, according to Fox.

"The idea of this is that search engines will now be able to extract the text and the link," but information maintained only in videos will still be invisible, she said. Video search capabilities could be added at some point, Everett-Church said.

"I do think developers who are implementing Flash on their site probably still need to pay attention to search engine optimization," Fox said. Adobe's effort probably will not fix all the current issues, she said.

Google and Yahoo, in prepared statements, both espoused purported benefits of the endeavor.

"Google has been working hard to improve how we can read and discover SWF files," said Bill Coughran, Google senior vice president of engineering. "Through our recent collaboration with Adobe, we now can help Web site owners that choose to design sites with Adobe Flash software by indexing content better."

"Yahoo is committed to supporting webmaster needs with plans to support searchable SWF and is working with Adobe to determine the best possible implementation," said Sean Suchter, vice president of Yahoo Search technology engineering.

While Adobe is working with Google and Yahoo initially, plans call for eventually making the new search capability available to benefit all content publishers, developers, and end-users, the company said.

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