Searchable SWFs

July 1, 2008 – 10:37 AM

I got forwarded this link today from businesswire about how Google and Yahoo are now going to be armed with the information necessary to look at and extract information out of SWF files. Ho-boy, here we go. The link was sent to me with the “bad juju” caveat, and I’m pretty sure I agree.

The problem is, like anything, if the search engines start pulling down rich applications that actually interact with the web application, there is untold issues that could arise. For instance, Flash applications have quite a bit of rich features in them, and some of that could be dangerous if they interact with back end applications. Also, if the word “test” appears in a Flash movie, does that mean it should get indexed? Or is it a frame that’s not visible, or off the side of the page, or whatever? What if it takes ten minutes to find that particular line of text or dozens of sub-menus? Are people really going to sit for that?

Do people really want to load a Flash movie when they query for things? I know I sure don’t! I’m already annoyed when I get linked to PDF files or .docx files. I think this just takes searching to a new level where people don’t actually want to go. Instead of crawling deeper and refining their search, the search engines are going to new mediums to stave off the people (like myself) who have argued that Flash isn’t a good medium for accessibility, usability and SEO. SEO is going to be off the table soon enough, leaving accessibility and usability.

But seriously, what’s next? Are the search engines going to decompile Java applets looking for text? As a side note, this should, at least in the short term, lead to a new round of Flash hacking, once it goes live. I’ll give a tee-shirt to the first person who writes a Google dork for internal Flash text that leads to exploitation.


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