Take a look at Google News and you'll notice something different. Absent from the clusters of articles populated with various stories on similar topics and themes are the names and information of the individuals who wrote the articles. Instead, there are only the names of publications – Bloomberg, Boston Globe, BBC News, to name a few.
The search giant has decided to remove authorship information from its search results. This is because such information, including authors' photos and names, was unnecessary and distracting to people's search practices, John Mueller, Google's Webmaster Trends analyst, said in a Thursday post on his Google+ page announcing the decision.
"This information isn't as useful to our users as we’d hoped, and can even distract from those results," he says. "With this in mind, we've made the difficult decision to stop showing authorship in search results."
He adds that removing authorship information neither reduces traffic to sites nor does it increase the number of times people click on ads. Rather, "we make these kinds of changes to improve our users' experience," he says.
Google first introduced "authorship markup" in 2011 as a means to "help people find content from great authors in our search results."
The feature has proved particularly important for writers and journalists who relied on this feature to direct online readers to their author page at their respective publication's website. Google even worked directly with publications – such as The New York Times, CNET, Entertainment Weekly, and others – to add the markup feature to their pages.
Mr. Mueller emphasized, however, that users will continue to see relevant Google+ posts from friends and pages. This change "doesn’t impact these social features," he says.
It's an ironic twist of fate at a time when writers to the Web are often advised to create their own "personal brand." Which means writers' names can be just as important to their careers as the masthead for which they write.
Today's wordsmiths are encouraged by mentors, teachers, and bosses alike to "fashion a brand – to entrepreneurialize a persona that will distinguish them from all the other content providers out there trying to hurl themselves over a transom that no longer exists," James Wolcott wrote in Vanity Fair earlier this year.
Writers must blog, tweet, and tweet some more, constantly curating a steady stream of likes, clicks, and followers.
"It's not like it isn't hard enough to get word out there of what you've written," says William McKeen, chair of Boston University's Department of Journalism.
And when consuming information in the digital age has been likened to "drinking from a firehose," more detail on the source of information would likely be beneficial to consumers, he says.
"If there's any service that gives you a bit of information about the author's background you'd think that'd be helpful to readers," he says. "It makes me wonder why [Google] decided to do it."