Adobe's Ichabod and The Headless Search of Flash, AJAX

While Adobe Flash has remained popular with Web developers who want to deliver fluid user interfaces, database-driven content, and nonstandard typography on the Web, it has suffered from one glaring shortcoming: search engines have been unable to effectively index the content held within the Flash file.

AJAX - ever popular with the Web 2.0 set - appeared well-positioned to supplant Flash, by delivering the same fluid UIs and database-driven functionality for which Flash had been revered. But as it turns out, AJAX suffers from a similar problem with search engine indexing. With Ichabod, Adobe is hoping to fix that problem for Flash - and AJAX.

Earlier this year, Adobe announced that they had begun making progress on the indexing problem with Flash. They also announced that they were teaming up with Google and Yahoo! to help address the issue.

Now, just in time for Halloween, Adobe has unveiled more information about the technology that may resolve the search-engine woes. Code-named Ichabod, it's an early prototype of a "headless Flash player."

The player - which has no user interface - is designed to help search engines index the content held within the confines of Flash and AJAX by playing the content in a way that allows the search bots to index it.

According to InfoWorld, Ichabod might walk through an interaction so that a search engine bot could index the results:

"The search engine, for example, might find a button in an application; Ichabod will try to push the button and generate an event, which then might lead to an indexing of that content."

Only time will tell if Ichabod's headless Flash player can bring indexing to the sleepy hollows of Flash and AJAX. But one thing is for sure: With the wealth of content contained within Flash movies throughout the Web - and the growing prevalence of AJAX content - it's in everyone's best interests to solve this issue.

For Adobe, it means eliminating one of the last barriers to the continued acceptance of its core Web technology. For Google, Yahoo!, and other search engines, the ability to effectively index Flash and AJAX content means more relevant search results to which they can affix advertising.