I keep seeing people moan about negative SEO, and yes it is a huge problem atm, anyone who says it isn't, is not really involved with websites, it's happening everywhere and it's getting worse.
As an old timer I find it odd people asking google to simply ignore links, as I remember when google DID ignore bad links, even up to 2 or 3 years ago nobody in their right mind would have used mass spam methods (negative SEO) against a competitor, simply because some of it would stick, and the rest would be ignored anyway. Just a waste of time and effort.
This was a much healthier approach to spam, webmasters could get on with creating and maintaining great sites, not chasing #*$! links from Russia.
Why did google drop it? Because they thought it would improve the search results? No, they knew it wouldn't, a 5 year old could have guessed what was going to happen.
IMO the only reason google didn't stay with this approach is because they were struggling with the sheer volume, and instead of admitting they had a problem to their superiors or shareholders they decided to shift the 'work' and blame to webmasters.
As for the 10 year old site which was number 1 for 10 years, google have shot themselves in the foot by removing it - those search results were the ones which made everyone love google. It's like G is now in black and white instead of technicolor, all the great independents with a fresh view have gone or are being abandoned and we are left with corporate sites with as much personality as a stick.