Mark Traphagen Explains All About No More Google Author PhotosIt's worth reading his entire post on G+ (hint, go do this, especially the Addendum) -- especially since he keeps updating it as he learns more -- but here's his take on things:
The End of Authorship? Hells No
That's how I think the decision process went down at Google. I think they understood the value of the author photos, but at the end of the day, whatever that value was, it was not greater than the value they'd gain by uncluttering their search pages. Google Authorship continues. Qualifying authors will still get a byline on search results, so Google hasn't abandoned it.
Besides, the bigger project here for Google I think is not author photos in search but the much ballyhooed but so far elusive "author rank," the ability to confidently determine who the content creators are in any given topic whom most people trust, and boost their content when appropriate. At SMX Advanced this month +Matt Cutts indicated that was still a priority, but was also still a long way off in being accomplished.
This is a long haul project folks. Don't head for the lifeboats every time Google makes a change.
Google Authorship Isn't Going Away: You Still Get Your BylineGoogle wants to provide its customers with the best content responsive to customer searches, and Google Authorship helps Google to accomplish this goal. Traphagen explains its this in more detail, and includes supporting links for anyone really interested in learning more (or who is really panicking right now).
Those SEO hijinks, to find a magic wand to get content appearing above the fold on the first page of search results? They're being successfully culled by Google. Quality content is key; just keep providing it and don't worry about not having your smiling face next to the search result.