If you were ever to perform a link: query on Google, you'd be presented with a lot of links. But are they ordered in any such way that authoritative links are listed before any other links? Nobody knows for sure, but some people have seen some experience to indicate that the link: operator only shows higher quality links. However, they also note that in the past, Google has changed this policy because it was a great way for competition to try to score some "higher quality" links.
Tedster reports that the link: operator is merely a sampling of what really exists out there. Similarly, you're only seeing a sampling of your links when you do a link analysis on Google Webmaster Tools.
Nobody believes that the results are randomized. One forum member reports that the link: operator shows basically the same results every time. There's some order, but it's hard to say exactly what it is.
Forum discussion continues at WebmasterWorld.