What I think really made an impact and made everyone question the value of a link was the devaluation of site wide links. These, in my opinion, are worthless now and changed the entire spectrum of the index. Allot of webmasters for years have been collecting these, either by reciprocal trade or by simply purchasing them. Google discounts these now and basically killed 2 birds with 1 stone. 1 bird being eliminating bought links and the other bird being removing sites that use unfair SEO tactics to rank (link farms, reciprocals, inter webbing, etc.)
This update pretty much targeted every SEOd website out there and only the authoritative sites survived.
Google will never eliminate the power of the link but they are definitely altering the way they judge them. No more is a link a link. It now matter if it's from an honest source, link history, age, varied anchor text, etc.
I agree with Rusty about an editorial review not being possible. There are simply WAY too many web pages out there and ranking one page over another is way too hard and open to favoritism. Last thing Google needs is the 1000s of daily emails screaming about bad editors, unfairness of rank, tattle tails (ex: "The site above me is using hidden text!! Do something about it") and I'm sure at least 100 new lawsuits each day from bad ranking websites.
Google established a ranking system and they will stick with it.
Stomp Stomp Stomp Stomp.....