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This week in Flash

Macromedia takes center stage at Flashforward2005 conference to promise significant changes in its Flash animation software.

Macromedia took center stage at this week's Flashforward2005 conference to promise significant changes in its Flash animation software.

Chief Software Architect Kevin Lynch described the bells and whistles in store for Flash authors in the company's upcoming release of the Flash 8 player, code-named Maelstrom, and the authoring tool, code-named 8Ball. Lynch also outlined plans for FlashCast, a new system in development to help mobile phone carriers run a variety of Flash-based applications.

Updates due this year in Flash 8 include both interface changes, to make things easier for designers familiar with other Macromedia applications, such as the Dreamweaver Web-authoring tool, and eye candy for end users, which Macromedia hopes will lure video publishers as well as designers to the Flash format.

But what if you built a Web site in Flash and no one could find it? That's the anxiety that attracted more than 100 Flash authors to a workshop during the San Francisco conference. The main question on everyone's mind: whether Google indexes pages written in Flash as well as it does "static" Web pages, such as those written in HTML, SHTML, ASP and PHP.

The chief hazard is a site written entirely in Flash. Workshop leader Gregory Cox said that Google will treat that site as a single file. As a result, the site will lose out in important Google indexing metrics, like the ratio certain keywords make up within a page. On a 100 percent Flash site, Google will calculate that ratio based on the total word count of the site.

Flash developers also got an earful from copyright reformer Lawrence Lessig about how their platform of choice is perceived in the free-software world.

"Flash is the enemy," said Lessig, a Stanford University professor and board member of the Free Software Foundation, as he described the opinions of leading free- and open-source-software advocates. These advocates "hate Flash. They think that by participating in the Flash community, you are feeding the devil."

He argued that the digital age has created new demands for the sharing of content that old-media copyright law cannot meet. As a result, he said, outdated copyright law is casting a pall over creative expression and education.