For years the big problem with Flash-based websites is that they could not be properly indexed by search engines. Flash websites have been favored by marketers and advertisers for a long time, because of the ability to create rich, interactive Web experiences. However for most other businesses, particularly those with a lot of information on their website (let's face it, that's everyone except marketers and advertisers), Flash has been nearly an automatic 'no' for website development. That may be about to change.
Adobe announced today that it is teaming up with major search engines - notably Google and Yahoo - to "dramatically improve search results of dynamic Web content and rich Internet applications (RIAs)." In a press statement, Adobe said that it is "providing optimized Adobe Flash Player technology to Google and Yahoo! to enhance search engine indexing of the Flash file format (SWF) and uncover information that is currently undiscoverable by search engines."
Adobe claims that it will provide more relevant search results and rankings for RIA content. In a separate blog post, Google announced that it has launched a "Flash indexing algorithm", which will result in better search results.
Adobe admitted in its statement that up till now RIAs have been "generally difficult to fully expose to search engines because of their changing states". In other words, up till now Flash has been mostly invisible to search engines. So this news today will truly be welcomed by web developers and designers. It may even get the approval of ornery old anti-web 2.0 guru Jakob Nielsen!
There's much to admire about Adobe's web technology initiatives over the past year or so. Recent highlights include Adobe AIR (allowing developers to take web applications to the desktop and store data offline), a host of excellent third party AIR apps, an online Office Suite and new Flash-enabled Acrobat 9, a Flash API for Google Maps, publishing the Flash File Format Specs, releasing Flash 10 Beta. And now making Flash searchable.
A little while ago I would've said that browser-based web apps had a big user experience advantage over Rich Internet Apps. But now that they've achieved an (almost) holy grail in searchable Flash, that gap has lessened some more.