Wittman said the SWF specification describes the file format used to deliver rich applications and interactive content via Adobe Flash Player, which is broadly installed on a vast majority of Internet-connected computers. Although search engines already index static text and links within SWF files, RIAs and dynamic Web content have been generally difficult to fully expose to search engines because of their changing states, he said.
Google has already begun to roll out Adobe Flash Player technology incorporated into its search engine, Wittman said. With Adobe's help, Google can now better read the content on sites that use Adobe Flash technology, helping users find more relevant information when conducting searches. This means millions of pre-existing RIAs and pieces of dynamic Web content that use Adobe Flash technology, including content that loads at runtime, are now searchable without the need for developer intervention.
"Google has been working hard to improve how we can read and discover SWF files," Bill Coughran, senior vice president of engineering at Google, said in a statement. "Through our recent collaboration with Adobe, we now help Web site 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."
The most significant aspect of the announcement, Hunt said, "is that this is not a change the site owners have to implement but that Google, and soon Yahoo, have this baked into their crawl systems and can interact with the SWF format just as a visitor to the site would, allowing them to get deep into the content discovering links and content that have previously been hidden from search engines."
Google is "working on and will roll out the spidering part of the equation," Wittman said. "They're bringing their expertise to the search part while we bring our expertise to the runtime. This was something that was mutual between ourselves and the search engines. They're going to have a lot more content that's available to search."
Adobe's Stewart says the best part is that content developers do not have to do anything.
"Any SWF you already have out there will be indexed by this new player," he said. "Of course, it won't automatically be as good as HTML. Google won't automatically deep-link your content or pull out unique URLs, so overnight I'm not sure a lot will change. But the most important part of this announcement to me is the fact that HTML and Flash can be on the same general footing when it comes to search engine optimization."
"Yahoo is committed to supporting Webmaster needs with plans to support searchable SWF and is working with Adobe to determine the best possible implementation," Sean Suchter, vice president of Yahoo Search Technology Engineering, said in a statement.