tedster - 3:17 am on Mar 6, 2012 (gmt 0)
Might be nit picking here but this was not part of the Panda update, but part of 40 other changes in the early March update.
I completely agree. Discussing algorithm changes at Google is becoming chaotic because webmasters seem to be calling any part of the algorithm "Panda". It's not, and this change was clearly distinct from Panda.
This is not nitpicking at all, IMO - it's about clarity.
In the past, Google has used many signals from the linking page to get a handle on the topic ofn the target page. Not just anchor text, but also "nearby text" and even the linking page's title element. IMO, this is one area where the dials were turned down. They found more accurate ways to judge the topic of a page than looking at these relatively remote signals.
At the same time, it seems that a lot more sites lost rankings (in a penalty-style fashion) for too much matching anchor text. It's like a new wave of "over optimization penalties."