At 9:51pm last night* Google's John Mueller announced on Google+ that Google Authorship had officially come to an end. (Read the announcement on John Mueller's Google+ account).
While the experiment to match authors to their words on the web (and to build up a knowledge base of trusted, knowledgeable sources on which to base search results) has failed, the concept behind the experiment is still a great one. As internet users, we want to know that the articles we read are written by people who know what they are talking about!
Or do we?
It seems from the announcement last night that the reasons behind Google deciding to end the Authorship experiment were technical and financial. The technical challenge came from the fact that not enough website owners implemented Authorship (and of those that did, a large number did so incorrectly). Google tried to get around this by attributing Authorship based on the data it held - an expensive and time-consuming process that was often inaccurate at best.
The real kick in the teeth for Google though, was that after all that time, effort and expense, it turned out that internet users actually took very little notice of what had been done. The data showed that we internet users took no more notice of results with an author's face next to them than we did to ones without. Indeed, Mueller writes, "this information isn't as useful to our users as we'd hoped."
So, feeling unloved and feeling that the return was simply not worth the investment, Google brought Authorship to an abrupt end.
In our opinion the concept of authorship remains a good one. We adopted Google Authorship early and we did favour results from authors who had chosen to do the same. We still want to know that the sources we take the time to read are authoritative - social signals may help us to decide who to read, but these can be manipulated. Simple, generic, "me-too" articles make it on to many of the big 'news' websites that accept guest-blogging, with many of those articles then shared ad nauseam by marketers who need to appear to be constantly on-the-ball.
We hope to see some form of authorship (with or without a capital a) return in the future. Even if it doesn't, thanks for trying Google - we appreciated your efforts!
*British Summer Time (GMT+1) - John Mueller's announcement was made at 9.51pm on 28th August 2014.
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