Back in November, Google launched its Instant Previews feature for search results, which allow users to view a preview of a site before actually clicking on it to visit it. I'm curious as to how often these actually get used, considering it still requires you to click to see the preview, and is just as easy (if not easier) to click the search result itself, but it its what it is. Granted, you can click to see one preview and scroll to see previews for other results.
The feature does encourage webmasters, or at least SEOs to pay greater attention to design (as if they didn't already have enough reasons to do so). If you have an ugly site, the user can now see that before they click through to it. Anyhow, with that in mind, Google announced today that the Instant Previews now support Flash.
"In most cases, when the preview for a page is generated through our regular crawl, we will now render a snapshot of any Flash components on the page," explains product manager Raj Krishnan. "This will replace the 'puzzle piece' icon that previously appeared to indicate Flash components, and should improve the accuracy of the previews."
"However, for pages that are fetched on demand by the 'Google Web Preview' user-agent, we will generate a preview without Flash in order to minimize latency," adds Krishnan. "In these cases the preview will appear as if the page were visited by someone using a browser without Flash enabled, and 'Install Flash' messages may appear in the preview, depending on how your website handles users without Flash."
Just a couple weeks ago, Google announced Instant Previews for AdWords (which could actually save advertisers money, as the preview clicks are free).
Flash support here could be crucial for landing pages that make use of Flash. You certainly wouldn't want potential customers seeing preview of things not working.
Other recent improvements to Instant Previews include integration with Google Quick Scroll and support for .doc and .ppt files (as well as video). Mobile support was also launched in March.