Flashforward glitches, prizes and quibbles

Tech Culture

In singing the praises of Flash video at the Flashforward conference in San Francisco Thursday, Macromedia's technical product manager for Flash authoring, Mike Downey, cited video on the front page of CNET.com as example No. 1 of a successful implementation.

Downey had just lampooned the process by which Web surfers click on video clips only to be greeted by a "puzzle" asking them their bandwidth speed and what player they want to use, and then by a cascade of windows as they try to download an instance of the RealPlayer.

Downey pressed the play button on the CNET video--a product review--and waited. Five seconds turned into ten. He tried a CNET review of a different product--still, no video.

Representatives of both Macromedia and CNET experienced a flash of embarrassment.

"This is that new product--it's entirely black," Downey quipped.

Eventually the CNET clip played. Other demos went more smoothly, including one of a mobile-phone-based traffic camera viewer that won Yahoo engineer Justin Everett-Church (spouse of privacy maven Ray Everett-Church) a 42" plasma TV in a Macromedia-sponsored contest.

A similar contest for Pocket PC-based Flash applications is underway. The grand prize is once again a plasma TV, and category winners get an iPod mini. Deadline is June 15.

In conversation following his keynote address Thursday, Macromedia's chief software architect, Kevin Lynch, expressed reservations about CNET's coverage of the previous day's events.

One point in particular that stuck in Lynch's craw him was the comment, from a participant in the "Google Food" panel about Flash search optimization, that Macromedia's system for publishing the text of Flash movies for better search engine accessibility "doesn't really work at all."

But it does work, Lynch insisted. And what's more, changes to Google's search algorithms make that feature irrelevant--Google now indexes Flash content just fine, he said.

"What Google has done is support the indexing of Flash content without anyone having to do anything special," said Lynch. "We've talked with Google about it and they're very motivated."

Unfortunately, Macromedia's page on the subject is more than two years old. In the hair-trigger world of search engine optimization (as Lynch's point about Google illustrates), that corresponds roughly to the Pleistocene Era.

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