Back in the day when Alta Vista was the king of search engines, meta tags were said to be vital to a web site's search engine position. Since everybody knew this, it was easy to skew results your way and so search engines started worrying about more important things like title, content, link text, URLs and back links to rank web sites.
So are meta tags finished? Well clearly description tags are used by search engines when results are displayed so presumably they have some impact on relevance, even if marginally. Keyword tags must surely have had their day though.
Well I have the official answer. Sort of.
I have just taken over a web site - Appuldurcombe which I redesigned, and not wishing to break what was not broke, I copied the keyword and description tags from the old site. One of the keywords was open to the oublic (sic). I changed it to public but did a search on that key phrase to see if it appears.
These results will soon be out of date but Google has no interest whatsoever in Appuldurcombe's web site with the phrase open to the oublic. Even "open to the oublic" appuldurcombe does not bring up the web site. However it does bring up a number of directory sites that appear to have harvested the meta tags to create a page such as Cylex Business Directory.
Yahoo, however, once it has clarified that you really mean oublic and not public, has the official Appuldurcombe web site at the number 1 position.
Bing takes the same view as Google - which is to ignore the tags completely in its search results. And since Bing will shortly be providing the search results for Yahoo web sites, the end of the keyword meta tag is very nigh.