Much has been written about the recent announcement of Google and Adobe working together to make Flash content indexed and searchable. Much written, with no real concrete answers. Lots of tests (A very good one done by Peter Elst), a contest held by Ryan Stewart (Flexmagically Searchable, FTW!), and some well formed opinions from SurviveStyle and YourSeoPlan. John Dowdell has also tackled the topic via comments on several sites as well as a post on his site.
It sounds a tad overdramatic, and I know this. But let’s just reflect for a moment on how it’s come to this. It’s a matter of purpose and function of the media you are creating. When designing an experience site or CMS powered brouchureware site you obviously are not making the same sorts of design decisions you might be making in a state/screen based RIA. They are just two completely different beasts. These two basic groups of sites (yes, I’m oversimplifying) ‚Äì Experience/Brouchware sites and RIA havem completely different needs. Because of this, the tools and techniques you use to build them are most likely going to be different. Standard sites are built for searchability and accessiblity by the widest range of users, because making sure the sites are found is of paramount importance! RIAs often have a narrower audience and are built to replace a desktop app or minimize clicks over a basic web application… making the tasks at hand as easy as possible is the key here.
On the other hand, often an RIA doesn’t necessarily require indexing at all. Indexing interior views of a mail app or information dashboard doesn’t seem logical. Strange question arise when you think about this, too.. security, landing pages, transitions, breadcrumbs, etc. For cases where an RIA does need to be indexed, maybe a SWFAddress method of enabling deep linking might be adequate to serve as signposts. For Flash based experience sites, a Google sitemap and some very clever use of WebServices feeding SWFObject/SWFaddress enabled Flash and AJAX may also work for you (Check out the recently relaunched BobDylan.com, built by some friends of mine to see the results of this. A nod to Brian and Steve on that one. Great work indeed.)
In conclusion, I’m optimistic but not overly so for the future of indexed rich media. Without a very detailed spec and best practices documentation, tests like Peter’s and contests like Ryan’s are going to be about the extent of success in this arena for the immediate time frame. Reading the comments at Peter’s post kinda confirms this for me. Lots of confusion and lack of knowledge about how this all interfaces with typical search engine directives like robots.txt etc… It’s all a very new area, so I’m thinking things will become more apparent soon.