Google recently announced that it is now able to index text within a Flash (.swf) file. The latest update means that any text that a user interacts with in your SWF file can be indexed by Googlebot and used to match queries and generate snippets for results in Google searches. Furthermore, external URLs within the file can be followed, crawled and indexed too.
This development is good news for industries who often need to offer richer experiences on their website, such as the travel/tourism industry and often seen on sites for restaurants and nightclubs.
The announcement arrives hot on the heels of Google Instant Previews, which a lot of users have complained does not seem to support flash - thus yielding a big gray puzzle piece where some Flash animation should be. However, there are hints in this announcement that this may be a temporary issue. The blog post says that an improvements have been made to Google's video indexing technology such that it is better able to recognize video on a page and extract relevant meta data - such as alternate thumbnails.
Perhaps this means that thumbnails will start appearing in place of the puzzle piece? Or that webmasters can define their own alternate thumbnail? I'm not an expert in Flash/SWF, so would love to hear your thoughts. Thom Craver who tipped us the story also raises some interesting questions on his blog. Google suggest that one thing webmasters can do to help with the project is "creating unique links for each page that is linked from within a single Flash object and by submitting a Sitemap through Google Webmaster Tools".