Google has pulled the plug on Google+ authorshop after admitting that the rich snippets don't help the user in anyway.
Google's John Mueller announces the end of authorship from Google+
and explains the decisions behind it. John explains the decision and the results demonstrating that the rich snippets provided no real benefit to search engine users and if anything distracted them from their goal:
"I’ve been involved since we first started testing authorship markup and displaying it in search results. We've gotten lots of useful feedback from all kinds of webmasters and users, and we've tweaked, updated, and honed recognition and displaying of authorship information. Unfortunately, we've also observed that this information isn’t as useful to our users as we’d hoped, and can even distract from those results. With this in mind, we've made the difficult decision to stop showing authorship in search results.
(If you’re curious -- in our tests, removing authorship generally does not seem to reduce traffic to sites. Nor does it increase clicks on ads. We make these kinds of changes to improve our users’ experience.)
You can read more about his post here
So what does this mean for you? It means you can stop wasting your time trying to get authorship to work for your blog posts and that if you want your posts to stand out in anyway then you'll want the next best thing: video. That is assuming Google will continue to support rich snippets and microdata to enhance results in google. +
The real reasons why Google ended authorship
Why did all of this happen? Well here is my opinion on the matter. Aside from saying this didn't help out the users, John Mueller's statement hints that SEOs may have abused this too much to the point of manipulating search engines and not helping out the users as much as they intended. When you think about it, people that know SEO were the first people to take advantage of this and other webmasters that are not up to date on their SEO would have lost out. This probably resulted in sites getting more traffic for using authorship. It is obvious that when you have an author pic in the search results, even if your listing was say 3rd, your listing would get more eyes on it. People even went so far as to optimizing their pics to increase the clickthrough rates. So in short Google is probably citing abuse of the problem in an indirect way.
Another problem that certainly would have existed behind the scenes is complaints. Webmasters complaining of either fake or anonymous authors are outranking them and the purpose of the program was to give a boost to real authors but when this doesn't work it highlights what Google doesn't like to do. Google loves to automate everything and they probably got tired of having to hire teams of real people to moderate this project.
Of course behind the scenes this would have been a tool to try to make Google+ more popular and that didn't seem to happen. If anything it probably got more SEO people using Google+ only to try to use it as an SEO tool but the end result being still not enough real people using Google+. Who knows, Google+ might become another project abandoned by Google but for now it is still here.
So in the meantime, Google is giving up on authorship but who knows if this is something that will go away for good. As long as rich snippets still have a purpose there still might be a need to show author data.