Google makes significant changes to its (structured data) developer guides

Google has just updated its documentation related to structured data, as detailed below.

Introduction
https://developers.google.com/search/docs/guides/
Change log: http://bit.ly/2tq8RlE

- Largely just a change to the introduction to the Google Search Guides section.
- Now classifies these Guides as covering "the following topics": structured data, AMP, mobile friendly design.
- Most notably this added paragraph makes it clear what these Guides are about: "These documents focus on the technical "how". For documentation about "why" you might want to implement various features, or a broader view of how Google Search works, please visit the Search Console help center, which provides guides, overviews, and more general information for site owners, SEOs, and content providers."

Introduction to Structured Data
https://developers.google.com/search/docs/guides/intro-structured-data
Change log: http://bit.ly/2tYZWF4
Internet Archive version, 26 June 2016: http://bit.ly/2tYXjD2

- Numerous changes to the text and components of the page.
- Old definition: "Structured data markup is a text-based organization of data that is included in a file and served from the web."
- New definition: "Structured data is a standardized format for providing information about a page and classifying the page content."
- "Markup formats and placement" replaced by a more detailed section titled "Structured data format".
- Google now explicitly says that is only uses the structured data it describes (but see bullet point directly below): "Attributes or objects not described here are not required or used by Google Search, even if marked as required by schema.org." (Two things odd about that last statement. First, "attributes or objects" strange language for schema.org, which uses "properties" and "types", if that's what Google means here. Second, AFAIK there's nothing "marked as required by schema.org" on schema.org.)
- The documentation now has this to say about the use of properties other than those required or recommended for a "enhanced display" result: "In addition to the properties and objects documented here, Google can make general use of the sameAs property and other schema.org structured data. Some of these elements may be used to enable future Search features, if they are deemed useful." If I'm reading this correctly, Google making "general use" of sameAs is not insignificant, as this is the useful schema.org mechanism for entity identification and disambiguation. See also last bullet below under the "About Search Features" page.
- Significant increase in the number of items under "Technical guidelines", which now have 8 bullet points rather than 4. Probably the most significant addition is this: "If you have duplicate pages for the same content, you should put the same structured data in all page duplicates, not just the canonical page."

Build, Test, and Release Your Structured Data
(Previously "Prototype and Test Your Markup")
https://developers.google.com/search/docs/guides/prototype
Change log: http://bit.ly/2tZcv36
Internet Archive version, 27 June 2016: http://bit.ly/2tYZuq8

- Numerous changes to the text and components of the page.
- In general much less emphasis on how to use the Structured Data Testing Tool (the bulk of the previous version's text) and much more emphasis on post-publication analysis and tweaking.
- Half the page's content is a new section titled "Fix existing pages".
- The linked "Debugging your pages" page (previously "Debug and Analyze") has been entirely reworked as well, now providing a list of "Verified site owner tools" rather than focusing on Search Console's Rich Cards report, as it did before.
- Provides a new, useful, detailed section titled "Testing locally-hosted or firewalled pages".

About Search Features
https://developers.google.com/search/docs/guides/search-features
Change log: http://bit.ly/2tq9eg5
Internet Archive version, 7 March 2016: http://bit.ly/2tpXgmO

- Numerous changes to the text and components of the page.
- Not so much new information here rather than an attempt (largely successful IMO) to clearly name, define, describe and illustrate each of Google Search's "few general types of search result categories": basic result, rich result, enriched search result, Knowledge Graph result and carousel.
- New section has been added under the title "Supported combinations", which shows "which enhancements are supported for content types or formats." Interestingly, all content types (including, presumably, article/blog, book, music, TV or movie, recipe and product types) are now eligible to appear in a carousel.
- A bullet point has been added on "Other structured data" that suggests the use of markup not required or recommended by Google may be useful after all: "You can add additional schema.org structured data elements to your pages to help Google understand the purpose and content of the page. Structured data can help Google properly classify your page in search results, and also make your page eligible for future search result features."

Preferred Site Name
https://developers.google.com/search/docs/data-types/sitename
Change log: http://bit.ly/2tYVExn

- Minor change. Previously titled "Your Site Name in Results" the page is now "Preferred Site Name".

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