It would seem links are the currency of web success. Secure good links and your site will rank, it's that simple. Also, if you investigate the history of the web Sir Tim was driven by a need to link academic papers. Cut the web in half and the word links runs right through it, just like a stick of Blackpool rock.
Furthermore, from the earliest days of the web people have created links pages. You link to me and I'll link to you activities, later called reciprocal linking, were pursued with a passion by traffic hungry websites. In those days links meant traffic, not search engine results.
So we are bound to links from both an historical point of view and by the algorithms of the modern search giants such as Google and others.
Today all web platforms are being exploited for links. So called social platforms are used more for link building and traffic generation than simply as a way of sharing good resources. Anyone who runs a blog will also be plagued by people making pointless posts in the hope of securing a links to their own website.
Forum posts are often lost among a sea of keyword loaded signature links and directories promising search engine benefits sell links in their databases where the only visitors are search engine spiders.
Metaphorically speaking we've got to the point where link builders sit in virtual high streets holding out their begging bowls for links like real world beggars asking for loose change and the chattering classes pedal the latest link building scam.
Where on earth will this end and what impact is the link frenzy having on the quality of material available online? Even the web's glitterati are decrying the Internet as a cesspool!
Sadly I have no clue as to a better way forward and that, it seems, is the view of people who know more abut these things than I ever will.