It used to be that the first author (meaning, the author whose name comes before the others) is thought to have contributed most to the publication.
But in the last couple of decades, it seems that the first author no longer matters AT ALL, instead the last person has become the most important.
I attribute my observation to two things,
The first author is typically a student, someone with no name recognition, or someone who is getting advised or funded by the last author.
The last author is typically the director or advisor of the project. In recent years many of these people have become ultra famous through things like TEDtalks and other media hype. It didn't use to be this way before the internet.
Nowadays whenever I evaluate how potentially interesting a paper is in my field (stem), before I even read it, I almost always look at the last author, especially if it is someone famous. If I don't recognize anyone, I am quick to assume that the paper is not interesting. I am trying to fight back against my bias.
Does being the "first author" still carry any weight in today's academic culture?