Quote from TL
Not exactly sure what I've stumbled onto here...
From the op, it almost seems like the things (almost) everyone here are supporting are:
1) Almost all sand being flat
2) Less variation in underwater terrain
3) Unrealistic beaches
I say no 3 as 'unrealistic' beaches because not all beaches in real life are the type you go to holiday on. You get shingle beaches (flat), dunes (very not flat) and reef beaches (count as underwater terrain maybe?) to name three. Why does it seem like peeps suddenly want beaches exactly the same as prior 1.8 and expect it to work flawlessly with the new world gen? I'll clear up a misconception readers may have preemptively made after reading the first bit of this; I like beaches in MC. I still like them, despite the changes. It's never really struck me as a problem though. I guess I wouldn't mind if they somehow got bigger beaches into the world gen (which they are going to change at some point?) but all we can do is wait it out till then.
The underwater terrain complaint, I really don't understand..."It looks ugly" isn't really an argument when you have gravel clogging mountains insides and the most commonly used block is still cobblestone. Maybe I'm missing the point, but more variation is usually good in my books.
OP - Not sure if I just misunderstood/misread but you might wanna change your opinion on the 'no sand above 2 sea level' idea. Sounds good if your focused on your next beach-house, but it would really suck for us explorers to find a very flat, very boring desert biome with no dunes, hills or dips(except between desert and biomes that can be higher than 2 above sea level). Allowing you to spot temples, mobs and wells from max view distance.
I apologize for any confusion you may have had in reading my obviously verbose OP, so I'd like to clear up any and all misconceptions you may have as well as respond to some of the issues you perceive concerning the aims of the thread.
1) I never would want terrain generation for any biome, structure, and such that contains even a modicum of sand to be flat, or restricted to a certain height level. This especially applies to Desert biomes; I enjoy the fact that it isn't completely flat as it is now and even would have prefer it more if it still occasionally generated mountainous dunes as it did prior to Beta 1.8. The height restriction stated would apply only to beach-related generation and nothing else, as it was prior to Beta 1.8. That was a mistake on my part; I suppose I didn't elaborate clearly enough.
tl;dr - Said height restriction would be limited to beaches only. Deserts and other pertaining features would be precluded from this.
2) I suppose using arbitrary aesthetics isn't much of a good argument when dealing with underwater terrain. But it does not look pleasing at all when you have patches of clay, sand and dirt dotting beds of water. I can't say I agree with the counter-arguments you present either; Gravel can't be clearly observed in a mountain or even outside of it in the repetitive patterns you see with underwater gen; Your point concerning Cobblestone is only due to the fact that it is the most mined and accessible block available in the entire game (aside from maybe dirt) and most people using it as a building material have questionable aesthetic senses. Any block misused can make structures ugly and vice versa.
And how would there be any less variation if underwater generation more akin to that of the one used prior to Beta 1.8? As I see it, there isn't much variation in the first place; whether you go to a lake, a river, or even the bottom of the ocean, you can see the same repetitive pattern: circular patches of dirt, sand, or clay. Using something along the older generator would probably increase variation in the formation of said deposits; you could go to one area and see a lake bed of dirt, at another, gravel, and so on. The point is that you'd be able to see something a little different with each body water, shaped differently as well.
tl;dr - Gravel does not generate in the same way and isn't as apparent; Cobblestone can and is misused, the block itself isn't ugly; Current underwater generation is as unvaried in the first place as it is terrible to look at.
3) As for the variation of beaches themselves, the point of the screenshots and such is to depict the general inconsistency of beaches in that they often break and randomly rise in height level, often in the same beach, to relatively great heights. I guess I would be fine with beaches that were somewhat higher than your stereotypical one if they didn't do so as if it looked like it was a sine wave with random patches of grass dotting the waterline. I suppose I also tried dealing with the problem of coastal generation in general with suggesting the re-addition of gravel beaches.
However, this is one of those issues where 'realism' isn't necessarily the best way to go in dealing with these problems. People largely play Minecraft to escape from the drudgery of reality to a surreal, aesthetically-pleasing world where they can lose themselves in the immersive environment. Why can't these people have idealistically-resort-styled beaches?
tl;dr - Beaches are generated in height, composition, and length so randomly it is not appealing. At least some uniformity would be nice.
** You've also pointed out that one should not expect beaches to work flawlessly with the new terrain generator. The thread remains to exist to point out that that has certainly not been the case ever since they were reimplemented. However, I would think that it would be easier to modify and improve with the current terrain generator since it is no longer noise-based. Each biome is separated with its own coding (with beaches being its own biome now), so it should logically be easier to edit said coding without having to muss up the entire code base, as it would have entailed if it were with the older gen. I can recalling Notch himself stating the new generator would be easier to work with at the inset of Beta 1.8. Why hasn't this shown to be the case with the new beaches?
tl;dr - The new biome coding should allow for easier editing of beach biomes so they can be perfected. Why hasn't this happened?