It works on the beta in a way like this (for trading etc)
If I see someone in the trade room who has something I want and I have something they want, I'll invite them to a group then when I make a game he'll be able to join it. So that aspect of the game is still there you just can't see a list of games so that's good. If anything this system bring more "chat" into the chat rooms instead of people just looking for a game with an item in the name they want jumping on trading then logging out.
I dont know what you did but i was allways in one of the Europe channels, and yes while some spam was there, i made allot of in-game friends in that channel.
I would only really enter trade channel if i actually wanted to trade something.
The nicest thing about D2 was that you could pick into baal/cow runs when they got advertised ( join our Baal run baal1-baal1).
For the people who think the D3 social interface is better then the one they used in D3, i play online games for the social interaction, its one of the reason single player games only tend to last a few hours for me.
If you hate the idea of having to play with other players, you're free to play this game, but i think you might be better off with a different game.
For the people who do like the D2 social interface over the one we have in D3 check out this post by OnetwoSC on Diablofans.