Disclaimer: All criticism of Google spokespeople contained herein is impersonal in nature.
I know they are only representing the internal direction of the company and not acting independently.
Cutts seemed to understand there was a need for the webmaster.
This lack of algorithmic specificity and update confirmation is how we wound up with Phantom.
Some, like Penguin and Panda, have been rolled into Google’s core algorithm and run in (quasi-) real time, while others, like the interstitial penalty, still run, well, when they run.
The word “Phantom” came from the idea that we didn’t know what it was; we just knew that some update that was not Panda caused mass fluctuations and was related to quality.