For quite a time, I had EchoLink set up here, tied into a VHF rig, so that I could have my whole family (nearly all the kids are licensed) particpate in using the EchoLink to talk with repeater users in Australia or Germany, for instance. When my daughter took her senior German trip to Germany, she took her handheld, and then used some Germany repeaters to EchoLink back to us here. That allowed us to stay in touch. That was great.
I see EchoLink as an "intertie" between repeater systems. I see it as a valuable tool to further communication between people. IRLP does this, as well. Purists want to have everything by radio. That's cool. But, do we have a high-bandwidth satellite linkage via ham radio between Western Australia and the U.S.A.? I don't think that HF is there, all the time, from a propagation stand-point. Matter of fact, I don't think I have yet worked any Western Australian stations on ANY HF band. I've worked many VK stations on HF, though.
Anyway, my perspective is that it is what you make it be. I used my radio gear to tie into it, and communicated with folks around the world using my handheld. That's enough radio for me to enjoy it.