Danny's Lab

Engineering the World

Flash, The Google Killer

Published on: Apr 6, 2011
Reading time: 1 minute

There's been a lot of talk about Adobe Flash in the blogosphere. Specifically the sheer hatred Apple seems to have towards Flash. While Apple's issues are for the most part understandable, their actions and reactions have become almost irrational. Interestingly, it's Google who should be most afraid of Flash.

Google's entire revenue stream relies on two things: search and advertising. Or I should one thing: advertising. Their primary vehicle for delivery is search.

Search works largely because the web was founded on open standards. Their crawlers are able to go to websites and pull the content as easily readable text. This is one of the areas that Google excels at. As a web author, you simply have to allocate a block on your website for Google ads. Google will then scan your web page to deliver ads that are targeted to your audience.

Flash, however, is an application delivery technology. It relies on "compiled" programs, code which is turned into bits that the flash plugin is able to understand. While not impossible, search becomes much more difficult in this paradigm.

Apple is fearful of that for it's own reasons. But the ones who should be worried most is Google. If the web switched over entirely to Flash-based applications, advertising would still certainly be possible as you see today. But you lose much of the advanced functionality that Google offers.

Once they loose that leverage they'll be competing with all the other advertisers out there. Most of which, frankly, aren't that good. But they can be cheap. That's why they're still around and still used by many people. What you end up with is sites that have lots of advertising you're not interested in, delivered in more and more annoying ways, which eventually will turn users away.

For those old enough to remember, that's the way it was with search engine advertising before Google came around. They changed the game by simply offering directed advertising: If you know what users are looking for you can offer them things they're interested in.

However in a Flash-based Internet, the only people with that capability will be Adobe, the owners of Flash.