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Cloaking Flash-based Sites Revisited
Visitors vs. Search Engines, Show Both Flash and HTML?

 3:08 am on May 1, 2008 (gmt 0)

I'd like to revisit this thread from last year and open this topic up for more in depth discussion about the real issues regarding Flash and cloaking:

I run a large directory site and I literally see hundreds of Flash-only sites a week and many of them show the visitor Flash only, just like the previous thread recommends, and shows the HTML to just the search engines.

Here's the real problem with that line of Flash/HTML cloaking philosophy:

* Not all visitors have Flash capabilities on PDAs, cell phones with internet access, etc.

* Flash-only isn't handicapped accessible. Handicapped accessibility is actually required in the EU by law. In America big sites like Target are being sued by the handicapped for having an inaccessible sites.

* Flash requires javascript enabled which many have disabled by default because of security concerns with javascript redirects and injector viruses. Using Firefox plug-ins like NoScript render Flash only sites completely broken on first access. Visitors to my directory often complain about listed sites being broken (blank page) because of this and I have to tell them to enable javascript.

Therefore, not permitting the HTML version of the Flash site to be seen by visitors is potentially costing you or your clients customers and also putting your site at risk for non-compliance with handicap regulations making it a possible target for a lawsuit.

I'm aware that some sites, like photographer sites, use Flash to protect their images from being stolen but at what potential cost?

Your best bet here is to show the visitor both Flash and HTML when javascript is disabled and perhaps cloak only the HTML version to the search engine, but it's really not necessary as the SE will deal the Flash and HTML combo site just fine.

It's not even hard to mix Flash and HTML on a single page:

Flash code here...
HTML site starts here...

That way everyone is happy.



 7:22 pm on May 1, 2008 (gmt 0)

Great topic - of growing importance all the time. I prefer the approach of

1. Serve the vanilla html by default
2. Test for Flash capability via a script
3. Use the DOM to overwrite the vanilla html if the user agent is Flash enabled

That basic logic is what SWFObject does so effectively. As a general rule, I always prefer to send the spider-friendly code as the default. Fewer accidental problems that way. Also, I don't trust that any search engine will continue to value <noscript> elements the way they do today,


 5:11 pm on May 2, 2008 (gmt 0)

very well put tedster.

i prefer this method as well.


 5:32 pm on May 2, 2008 (gmt 0)

2. Test for Flash capability via a script

The only flaw there which was part of my opening discussion is the number of visitors with javascript initially disabled when they first land on your site.

Most often the "You need Flash" message is completely erroneous because they already have Flash, just not javascript enabled, which confuses the heck out of the less than computer savvy masses.

Testing for Flash requires javascript therefore your FIRST test should be for javascript and not just Flash such as...

... if no Flash, big bold letters "YOU NEED FLASH"!

However, back to the topic of cloaking, I like your method of inserting the Flash with DOM as it's technically cloaking the Flash to the visitor without any actual search engine cloaking involved.

Since the SE's don't execute Javascript it's cloaked by default, cute.

[edited by: incrediBILL at 5:35 pm (utc) on May 2, 2008]

creative craig

 8:58 pm on May 2, 2008 (gmt 0)

For my own taste I want a choice of Flash or HTML - if I am forced into Flash by default just because I have JavaScript enabled and Flash installed then I tend to back out of the site completely and head to a competitor.

I want to choose :)


 9:40 pm on May 2, 2008 (gmt 0)

There is some decent (slightly old) information on the google webmaster blog on how to use flash:


nevets steven

 9:35 pm on Jun 1, 2008 (gmt 0)

this is all u need


it detects if flash and JS are enabled if not, serves what ever you put inside the mydiv tags.

[edited by: incrediBILL at 3:17 pm (utc) on June 2, 2008]
[edit reason] updated link to most current source [/edit]

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