As of this week, Google has ended its three-year experiment with Google Authorship, removing all Authorship results from their Search results. Google's John Mueller explained in a Google+ post that, when it came to Authorship's effect on search results, they "observed that this information isn’t as useful to our users as we’d hoped, and can even distract from those results" (via Mueller's Google+ post).
Now, some might think that this move is an indicator that Google no longer believes that the author of a piece of content is important, but I think that would be a faulty assumption. I think Google is very interested in WHO is writing a piece of content - it just so happens that they didn't get it right with Authorship.
The fact that Authorship was tied to Google+ was always a limiting factor when it comes to which content would be presented in search results. If an author did not have their Google+ profile connected, then their content simply would not appear in results. According to Search Engine Land, less than 30 percent of the most influential authors were using authorship markup on their blogs - which means a great deal of truly expert content was not being presented in Google search results. Thus, the value to users was low.
But I would be very surprised if Google doesn't ultimately introduce some other means of validating the source (the author) of content in the future. And here's why:
People care about the source of the content they are reading.
This doesn't just mean that people trust the publication (i.e., as long as it's in the Wall Street Journal, it must be credible) - people are also increasingly reliant on the expertise of the individual author. And we've seen from several studies - including this one by NIelsen - that when people read content from Experts they trust, they are more likely to act upon that information.
So while Google's Authorship experiment may have been a failure this time around, I'll be curious to see the approach that Google takes next in identifying and presenting content based on the source's expertise. Hopefully it will be one that depends less on a limiting factor like Google+ so that adoption will be higher, and will truly add value to the user's experience.