Flash Websites No Longer Second-Class Citizens

This article was originally written for ArrowQuick Solutions, a technology consultancy for small businesses.

At ArrowQuick, we are often asked if we can create Flash websites. Flash is a multimedia technology that allows websites to contain animation, video, and sound. And although ArrowQuick can build Flash sites, our answer usually starts “Yes, but….”

An astounding amount of web surfers (some statistics say that as many as 98% of all web browsers have Flash) can view these sites with no problem, but there has always been one big stumbling block with a Flash-only site: search engines such as Google and Yahoo could not see their content.

Flash logo.Like images and other non-text files, search engines have difficulty finding and categorizing the content inside of Flash, so these files are mostly ignored. Google added some Flash capability to its search engine, but the results are less-than-perfect. This is a big problem if you are a company who relies on people coming to your site through search engines (which is almost everyone to some degree). It bears repeating: “It doesn’t matter how pretty your website is if nobody can find it.” This means a compromise has to be reached — building non-Flash alternatives, and restricting the use of Flash to limited elements on the page.

Last week Adobe, the developers of Flash, announced they will be releasing special technology to search engines that will allow them to read all of the information inside of a Flash file. This continues Adobe’s recent efforts of opening up its technologies to developers and third parties. It makes sense for Adobe to do this now, considering they are pushing their products hard in the web software market. But it’s been a long time in coming; Flash was introduced way back in 1996 — an eternity in Internet time.

Of course, it may take some time before this technology is implemented and shows up in the search engine results. And there are remaining issues, like accessibility and deep-linking, that still prevent Flash from becoming a true first-class citizen on the web. In the meantime, it’s best to continue using these enhanced technologies in moderation.

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