Flash myths and Flash facts

The more popular Flash® technology becomes, the more rumors and myths are born about it. I want to disprove 5 widespread Flash myths which annoys me most of all.

Myth #1 Flash files can’t be indexed by search engines, and thus can’t be used for SEO.

This myth is very durable and many people believe it to be the holy truth in spite of all the information about Flash indexing. The truth is that the attempts of indexing flash were made back in 2004. And now, textual content and URLs in the Flash files can be indexed by any search engine by utilizing Macromedia's Flash Search Engine SDK. Google has been using a new technology from Adobe® to improve Flash indexing for almost two months and Yahoo! is next in turn. Read Google’s post to its Webmaster Central Blog and Adobe’s press release to learn details about the improved Flash indexing. And what about a non-textual content: if a Flash file includes images with text, search engines don’t index this text (as well as they don’t index text in images of other file formats). So, indexing Flash content is not too much behind indexing other content. And a few words about SEO and SEO-friendly content. Each SEO specialist knows that content itself (i.e. text) isn’t the key factor of high search engines rankings. The more important factors are targeted keywords, meta tags, title and the most important criteria used by search engines to rank your web page – inbound links which can be successfully built both for websites with Flash and without it.

Myth #2 Using Flash on a web page means slower loading and larger file size.

This information is completely out of date. Less and less users are on slow connections such as dial-up, most of us have broadband access. Rapid development of data transfer, storage and processing also makes Flash applications faster from day to day. Large size of the file is a myth for people who’ve never created their own page in Flash. Size of an HTML shell is small, and size of a Flash file itself (without built-in audio and video) is not much larger than the size of comparable HTML content. Of course, if you want to have audio and video instead of raw text, the size of your web page will increase. But it’s natural and it has nothing to do with the Flash itself.

Myth #3 It’s impossible to navigate within a Flash movie using Back and Forward buttons.

Yes, we’re used to see Flash pages without an internal Flash navigation. But it doesn’t mean that this navigation is impossible. If you still believe this myth, you’ll be surprised hearing that this problem was solved in 2001(!) by Robert Penner. Here’s his explanation:

Normally, pressing the back button on a Flash page takes you out of the movie. I don't like that! In order to use the browser back button, you have to generate a history of web pages. I use a hidden frame to store HTML pages that generate a browser history... I created one HTML page for each section of the movie that I want in the history. On each HTML page is a little piece of Javascript that sets a variable in the Flash movie. After the HTML sends the signal to Flash, it's up to you to notice and navigate to the appropriate section…

Myth #4 Not everyone can experience Flash content and that decreases your audience size.

That’s true, not everyone has Flash® Player installed – 1% of all Internet users doesn’t have it and can’t render SWF. However, I think 99% of Internet users is enough for you to find your target audience :). Adobe® Flash® Player’s penetration rate is immense, view the Adobe’s statistics below and don’t worry about your audience any more.

If you’re still anxious about it, you can create an alternative non-Flash content. For example, SWFObject library helps users without the Flash plug-in see a working HTML page. Creating and alternative content is also great for people who are still don’t sure about Flash indexing – HTML content will surely be indexed by search engines. Also, use Flash Player Detection Kit to detect the version of Flash Player installed on a user’s computer, and, if needed, to then install the latest version of Flash Player. Use Flash Player Express Install to seamlessly upgrade users to the latest version of the Flash Player without leaving you site.

Myth #5 Flash means annoying ads, banners and sites with irritating music or videos.

Blaming Flash for ads and banners is the same thing that blaming jpeg for ugly pictures or mp3 for music you don’t like. Flash is only the method of delivering content. And what content is delivered is up only to its developers, not to technology they use.