CainIV - 5:38 am on Apr 29, 2010 (gmt 0)
They matter a ton.
I think the justification is the premise behind Google wanting to emulate 'local business' results in the webspace.
If you were a local business, and there were no Internet, much of the traffic, popularity and references you would get would be from local businesses related to you, who can vouch, or 'vote' for you being a solid business.
When you parallel this to what Google is doing, the similarities are all there.