Google and Yahoo to search Adobe's SWF files

Google and Yahoo search capabilities will soon be added to Adobe’s Flash file format known as SWF, Adobe has announced.

The two search engine giants ignored the contents of SWF files before. From now on users will be able to use both Yahoo and Google engines to look into the SWF content, including text, link, audio and video files.

SWF (acronym of "Shockwave Flash") is a partially open file format for multimedia and especially vector graphics developed by Macromedia and now controlled by Adobe. Intended to be small enough for publication on the web, SWF files can contain animations or applets of varying degrees of interactivity and function. SWF is also sometimes used for creating animated display graphics and menus for DVD movies, and television commercials.

SWF is currently the dominant format for displaying animated vector graphics on the web, far exceeding the W3C open standard SVG, which has met with problems over competing implementations.

On 1 May 2008 , Adobe dropped its licensing restrictions on the SWF format specifications, as part of the Open Screen Project. However, Rob Savoye, a member of the Gnash development team, has pointed to some parts of the Flash format which remain closed.

Originally limited to presenting vector based objects and images in a simple sequential manner, the newer versions of the format allow audio, video and many different possible forms of interaction with the end user. Once created, SWF files can be played by the Adobe Flash Player, working either as a browser plugin or as a standalone player. SWF files can also be encapsulated with the player, creating a self-running SWF movie called a "projector".

The file format was first created by FutureWave, a small company later acquired by Macromedia with one primary objective: to create small files for displaying entertaining animations. The idea was to have a format which could be reused by a player running on any system and which would work with slower network connection.

Plugins to play SWF files in web browsers are available from Adobe for most desktop operating systems, including Microsoft Windows, Apple Mac, and Linux on the x86 architecture. A free software implementation of a SWF player is Gnash, which as of 2007 is undergoing intensive development. Another FOSS implementation is swfdec.

Based on an independent study conducted by Millward Brown, over 99% of web users now have an SWF plugin installed, with around 90% having the latest version of the Flash Player. Sony PlayStation Portable consoles can play limited SWF files in its web browser, beginning firmware version 2.71. Both the Nintendo Wii and the Sony PS3 consoles can run SWF files through their Internet browsers.