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Why don't they show them all? Maybe:
1) To throw us off the scent
2) They are in the business of providing services to searchers, not webmasters ... who check backlinks .... the webmasters & SEO's -- its probably just a waste of computing resources to show them all.
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...it might be better and more fair to show a random sample of backlinks instead of only higher PR links; that would allow site owners of smaller domains to see more of their backlinks, even if they don't have high PR links.
In my experience, folks make two main mistakes about the backlinks we export. First, when they don't see a backlink in response to link: queries, they assume that link isn't counting. The fact is that internally we have complete copies of links we saw, but just don't show them all. The other mistake is to assume that just because we show a link in response to link: queries that it somehow counts more. Honestly, I wouldn't read that much into whether a particular link shows up in response to a link: command.
Whats in it for Google to waste computing resources in providing all the backlinks of a site to webmasters?
Btw, I even don't mind paying Google a monthly fee for seeing results beyond the first 1000 results while seeing backlinks. That would take care of the computing resources issue, and would make Google a one-stop destination for seeing backlinks, right now we have to go to various search engines to check backlinks.
Yeah, I'm in. So why doesn't someone write a spider and scan the entire web just for links. You could sell the unabridged list of backlinks for specific sites for a fee. :) Shouldn't there be a site like this already. The market is SEO people TIMES number of sites (with number of sites being something like the speed of light).