I’ve long argued that “links are dead” (going on a decade now). Some of that was hyperbolic to discuss the need for a better mechanism to derive value or information from one site to the next or from a marketing campaign.
It looks like Google might be moving beyond links as well and towards more of an “entity database” where the connections and relationships between search terms are prioritized. I can get behind that.
The idea that we can push our rankings forward through entity associations, and not just links, is incredibly powerful and versatile. Links have tried to serve this function and have done a great job, but there are a LOT of advantages for Google to move toward the entity model for weighting as well as a variety of other internal needs.