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google ignores adobe flash

Image source: Wikemedia Commons

Marking the end of an era, Google’s search engine will ignore Flash content on web pages and stop indexing standalone SWF files, an extension of Shockwave Flash, by the end of the year.  Flash is a once popular software program used to develop animations for websites and other applications.

Most users and websites won’t see any impact from this change, asserts Google engineering manager Dong-Hwi Lee.

Not everyone is so sure. An enormous volume of Flash content remains on the web, often hidden away in corners of large websites, says Amanda G. Watlington, founder of Searching for Profit. These pages may still be in Google’s index. “They are in the company’s digital attic,” Watlington writes in Target Marketing. “These treasure troves of forgotten content are often the product of unredirected orphaned initiatives.”

The Rise, Fall and Death of Flash

Introduced in 1996 by Adobe, Flash became the de facto standard for delivering animated content. The Flash runtime, which plays Flash content, was installed 500 million times in the second half of 2013. “Flash was the answer to the boring static web, with rich animations, media, and actions,” says Lee. “It was a prolific technology that inspired many new content creators on the web.” Those audio, animated and graphic files remain on thousands of corporate and brand websites.

In recent years, faster, more efficient and secure technologies have superseded Flash. Because it was Adobe’s proprietary technology, users had to install plug-ins on their browsers to view Flash content. Flash also required constant updates. It slowed internet connections, and was not well-supported, particularly on mobile devices.

New technologies, most notably HTML5, offer better alternatives. As an open standard, it has been incorporated into all major web browsers and can deliver audio and video content without bloated, vulnerable, crash-prone plug-ins, explains Brian Geary, an account manager with a design and marketing background at AndPlus. Most animated content requires only HTML5. A combination of JavaScript and CSS3 can handle most of the rest. JavaScript provides interactivity for games, tutorials, and other interactive content; CSS provides the styling.

How to Convert and Salvage Flash Files

Flash files on corporate and brand websites often contain important messaging that will become inaccessible when Google stops indexing Flash files. Experts recommend that organizations take these steps:

  • Check for Flash files on your web site and convert the files to newer formats, such as HTML5. Adobe offers software to convert Flash objects to HTML5-friendly content. “Content owners who really care will take advantage of these tools, and those who don’t will let their content fade into obsolescence,” says Geary.
  • If the file is worthy, redevelop it or make sure that it is properly redirected. Online converters may not be secure.
  • To gauge the possible impact of Google’s decision, check if the search engine has indexed Flash files on your site.
  • Organizations with websites fully designed in Flash or with sections of content in Flash should to consider overhauling their sites using HTML5 or other development tools.

Bottom Line: Web designers and marketers can say goodbye to the formerly widespread Adobe Flash. Organizations that still have Flash content online have only a few weeks to upgrade Flash files to new formats. Even marketers not responsible for website development can benefit from learning about HTML5, the new standard for video and audio content.