Just over 3 years since Google first announced in a 2011 blog post that it would be supporting authorship mark-up and including rich snippets showing it in search results, authorship has become the latest feature they’ve dropped support for.

In a Google+ post last night, John Mueller of Google Webmaster Tools announced that Google would no longer be supporting authorship.

The End Of Authorship

The End Of Rel=”Author”

Citing a lack of take-up and and lack of impact on clicks, (and hence an unimproved user experience), he explained that rich authorship snippets will no longer be appearing in standard search results.

They will continue showing for Google+ posts for logged in searches, allowing you to take advantage of them in personalised search, (where they will show for people you have some connection with) but they won’t be showing up in regular SERPs.

Always Testing

It’s often a bitter pill to swallow when Google kills something that you’ve been investing in.  And it’s a practice that makes it harder to invest in Google’s experiments, because people tend to worry that they’ll just take it away.

But Google is, understandably, focused on the overall experience, and with their vast store of data, often make apparently ruthless decisions without regard for the rest of us.  Practically every Google property and feature is, at heart, an experiment.  And they’ve never been shy about killing the experiments that didn’t work out for them.

The Implications

On the one hand, there technically aren’t any implications.  Google says that the authorship snippets didn’t improve click through rate, and having them still in place on your site won’t do any harm.

The only implication is that people won’t see your author photo and details in the results, which isn’t that much of a difference, since they’d been scaling that back since last year or so anyway.

They will still show up for logged in searches where the user is connected to you in some form, but that’s about it.  So the only issue is the effort people put into implementing authorship in the first place, sadly now wasted, if the only reason you did it was for some putative SEO benefit.

On the positive side, he also spoke about Google’s commitment to semantic markup, (such as schema.org) which suggests that rich snippets per se aren’t going anywhere.  Just the ones for authorship.

If there’s one thing you can say about this industry, it’s never stagnant.  Can’t wait to see what the next experiments will bring or take away…