Instead of repeating the same issues again and again, here is one thing which should not fall into oblivion:
Why contacts do by far not compare to the friends feature
Friends: Before December 2011 we could simply invite another user as a friend by one single click on the invite button. If he/she accepted, everything was fine. The next time we wanted to share something with the community, we could send a message to this new friend, being sure that we're not spamming. If the invited user did not accept to be a friend, at least for me it went without saying that I would never bother this user again. In other words, becoming friends was a bidirectional feature. It required activity from both sides to reach the "friends" status.
Contacts: now we have the contacts feature. First of all the procedure to add someone as a contact is approx. 100 times more complicated: keep in mind the user name or copy to clipboard -> go to your own Inbox -> click on adress book -> click on "add contact" -> type in or paste user name -> click save. Secondly in the moment when you click save this user becomes a new contact, no matter if he/she wants this or not. Even IF this user adds you as a contact as well, you will not be notified. In other words the contact feature is purely unidirectional. For the above given reasons it is therefore even a spam increasing feature.
Conclusion: removing the "friends" feature took away our ability to prefilter who might be interested in our creative contribution. And no: the statement that subscriptions and friends were just merged is in my opinion simply wrong. Before December 2012 almost nobody would have subscribed to every friend. The current design of the personal YT homepage gives very good reasons why we should also not subscribe to every contact we have. In my opinion removing the friends feature will make it harder to find content users are interested in, reduce community networking and reduce the number of views in general (when you watch too many videos which did not meet your taste, you simply watch less videos in general).