Now that Google won’t index Flash pages, here’s what website owners need to know

In the early 2000s, Flash was everywhere on the web. The browser plug-in technology made it easy for web developers to build everything from animated movies to restaurant menus that would look the same from computer to computer in a time when creating a site of any complexity was something akin to alchemy.

Having all that content in Flash meant that Google and other search engines had to develop ways to index the format or else risk their users not being able to find big swaths of the web. But since then, Flash has gradually ebbed in popularity, starting with Steve Jobs-era Apple’s famous decision not to support the technology on the iPhone.

Web browsers began to support unified HTML, JavaScript, and CSS standards that let more complex websites work without special plug-ins. It also hasn’t helped that Flash has occasionally been the source of security vulnerabilities on computers that support it, leading the major web browsers to announce plans to disable it by default. Adobe, which makes Flash Player, will stop supporting it at the end of next year, and Microsoft’s Windows Update will then automatically strip the software from modern Windows computers.

Now, Google has announced that it will stop indexing Flash content later this year.

“In Web pages that contain Flash content, Google Search will ignore the Flash content,” wrote Dong-Hwi Lee, a Google engineering manager, in a blog post. “Google Search will stop indexing standalone SWF [Flash] files.”

As the blog post pointed out, most websites have moved on from Flash and won’t be affected, but if you are still running a website using that aging technology, it might be time to finally upgrade to modern HTML or, at the very least, duplicate important text and other content outside of the Flash application.

That will help ensure search engines and everyday users alike can still figure out what your site is trying to say.

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