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It’s been a veritable geek flash-mob — in more ways than one — since Google announced that it will now be able to search and index Flash files on the Web, thanks to a special player that Adobe has created for it and Yahoo to use. The player effectively acts like a regular user, clicking on the various buttons or dragging sliders or whatever, in order to reveal all of the content trapped within the Flash widget or page. As far as I can tell, the only thing the Adobe player won’t be able to simulate is a pissed-off user clicking away from the page altogether, because the Flash widget or movie is so annoying and/or completely useless.

I’m no SEO magician, but I also have to wonder (as Erick Schonfeld does) whether the ability to search through Flash files is going to be that great for websites, since the main thing that gets you higher in Google search results is the number (and quality) of links that you have to your content. Are people all of a sudden going to start linking to the content inside a Flash widget, or boosting their links to a page because it has searchable Flash now? I don’t think so, although I could be wrong.

But the biggest fly in the ointment for me is the simple fact that most Flash websites are — not to put too fine a point on it — crap. The technology is occasionally used to good purpose, but more often than not is a cheap and cheerful way to make a site look interactive and fun, while simultaneously robbing it of any usefulness and overdosing on eye candy. Disagree? Feel free to tell me so in the comments.

About the author

Mathew 2431 posts

I'm a Toronto-based senior writer with Fortune magazine, and my favorite things to write about are social technology, media and the evolution of online behavior

32 Responses to “News flash: Flash websites still suck”
  1. Personally I'm not a fan of Flash when it's used for the entire interface, but there is no better method of delivering rich visual content. Flash has relatively low barriers to entry so it's easy for a bad designer to create a truly dreadful site, but it's also relatively easy for a bad developer to inflict gratuitous AJAX on the end user so that their CPU usage is pinned at 100%. I don't think either scenario is really a criticism of the tool so much as the person implementing it.

    I also wonder if this post shows how easy it is to maintain a relatively narrow view of the web from within the world of tech blogs, in which it's all about text and rapidly produced video, not about production values or building engagement with brands. Automotive sites, sports sites (like Nike's Jumpman site, and many of the sites developed by agencies like AKQA for video games, etc. may not be your thing, but they can certainly be effective for their target audience.

    Oh, and without Flash, YouTube and Flickr couldn't exist in their current forms…

  2. […] get all excited about the news with a few hold outs questioning just how practical this really is. Mathew Ingram said this morning: Are people all of a sudden going to start linking to the content inside a Flash widget, or […]

  3. Daniel, your point about Flash and sites like YouTube and Flickr is well taken — those are good examples of how using Flash is not just good but arguably the best possible outcome.

    I disagree, however, that there is “no better method of delivering rich visual content.” And I regularly go to non-tech websites, including some of the ones you mention, and still believe that some — if not all — of them could do just as good a job (if not better) of building value or “engaging with the brand” or whatever you want to call it without using Flash.

    I think in most cases, Flash is the equivalent of a really beautiful looking TV ad that tells you nothing whatsoever about the product — it makes a whole team of designers happy, and it's nice to look at, but it accomplishes very little.

  4. Great post Matt.

    This news is good for the sake of indexing content that is already out there, but it's probably a mistake for sites to think this is a green light for full flash development. At search conferences Google reps (and everybody) used to laugh at the heavy flash sites created at huge expense by big, SEO deficient advertising firms.

    That said this is an important development in that it may shake up current rankings as heavy flash sites are less repressed in ranks than before.

    Actually, for the linking reason you note above bloggers are SEO magicians – sometimes without even knowing it. Congratulations!

  5. “main thing that gets you higher in Google search results is the number (and quality) of links that you have to your content.”

    You want a girl who looks good? Or a girl that needs 1000 people to tell you she's rankable?

    Flash developers just want to make somethings that looks good. We don't cry over Google ranking.

  6. Mathew I both agree and absolutely disagree with your statement.

    Yes Flash can be used for good and not evil and I have seen both.

    But I ask you this have you ever written an article that you didn't think it didn't deserve the coverage, but you had to anyways?

    Have you ever had to convince a client that Flash wasn't they way to go but yet the client was so inspired by magic of flash that they didn't want anything else.

    Have you ever played or had your children ask you to play a game on the Internet. Oh that needs flash?

    The new Wall-E site. . . . Ya. . . Flash. . . . My 2.5 year old nephew can navigate that site.

    And on a journalist point. I hate sensation headlines that get my nickers in the knot. You can get my attention in a more subtle way, you work for the globe you can write an intelligent headline. And that is what I look for from your personal blog too. Intelligent Technology news, whether I agree or disagree with your article is up for debate. But if I wanted Technology News written with Sun styled headlines I know where to find them.

  7. […] Mathew Ingram writes in his great blog post titled “News Flash: Flash Websites Still Suck”: […]

  8. Yeah it should all be text based and have no graphics. Yawn…

    Oh Mathew. You are so old school. Clearly you've spent too much time cavorting with your engineering and uber geek friends. When done brilliantly and for the right reasons, Flash rocks.

  9. […] Ingram writes in his great blog post titled “News Flash: Flash Websites Still Suck”: I also have to wonder whether the ability to search through Flash files is going to be that great […]

  10. Some of the posts here referred to flash widgets, and I agree with their assessment. These things are the best use of flash. When sites decide that a rich multimedia bombardment on the user is better then simplicity, you get the 99.99% of flash use in websites.

  11. […] Ingram writes in his great blog post titled “News Flash: Flash Websites Still Suck”: I also have to wonder whether the ability to search through Flash files is going to be that great […]

  12. I agree. For people like me– who use the internet to get useful information– it's an annoying waste. For people that just like to dick around and play games then I suppose Flash is good.

    I have worked on probably 50-100 Flash sites (as back-end dude) and maybe 1 was worth doing. The rest were at the insistence of the dopey money-to-burn client.

    I will say that some of the Flex stuff can be interesting. Generating charts/graphs is much best handled via Flex. Mulit-file upload works better with Flex. There are some possibilities here. So maybe it won't suck forever.

  13. I totally agree. I can't stand flash websites most of the look cheesy and take to a while to load( and you know how fun it is to watch a loading screen….).

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  16. […] was perusing the vastness of his internet world when he found a whole host of sites that hate flash websites!  Upon hearing their grievances, Command+D has to admit that monopolizing any part of the […]

  17. Wheneaver a Flash page apears, I reach for the CLOSE button

  18. Wheneaver a Flash page apears, I reach for the CLOSE button

  19. I wholeheartedly agree.

  20. […] Ingram writes in his great blog post titled “News Flash: Flash Websites Still Suck”: I also have to wonder whether the ability to search through Flash files is going to be that great […]

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