announced today that it has begun indexing attribution of content to particular authors, not just to the websites they appear on. Links associated with the author of a page can now have the code rel="author" added to them and Google will understand that to mean that the linked name is the linking page's author. That's a potentially significant change to the balance of power between sites and the individuals that create for them.Google
For example, if you're on ReadWriteWeb right now you can see my name (Marshall Kirkpatrick) linked-to with rel="author" in the HTML. This will enable Google to show an author's own content independently in search results and the company says it is working to determine what all this means for page authority in search results. Google worked with a handful of big publishers to institute this admittedly small technical change and the markup is now automatically included in all content published on Blogger and Youtube.
As Google engineer Othar Hansson writes in concluding the announcement, "We know that great content comes from great authors, and we're looking closely at ways this markup could help us highlight authors and rank search results."
Widespread adoption of rel="author" in a web of open data could create a wide variety of other possibilities as well. There's no reason to believe that Google will be the only company indexing this structured markup. That which is marked-up in a standardized, publicly and programmatically accessible way can be measured, monitored, optimized and more. Now the work, and the success, of particular authors will be trackable across publishing platforms and websites.
There are a lot of future scenarios that could become real as a result of this. Imagine a famous author, for example, able to leave one of the great publications of the previous era and take their PageRank (or a future AuthorRank) with them. That could shake things up and that's just one of many things that could be possible with the instrumentation of authorship.