In a Make Core post co-authored by Ryan Boren, Helen Hou-Sandí, and Sheri Bigelow; they attempt to highlight some bigger goals for live previewing WordPress websites via the customizer.
One of the most important things in WordPress is users being able to feel confident as they make changes to their content and more generally to their sites. Being able to make non-destructive changes and preview them is an important component of building that trust. This is perhaps most noticeable in the “save and surprise” approach of the widgets admin screen – every time you add a new widget, modify its settings, or move one around, the changes are saved and appear live on your site, even if you’re not ready yet. The customizer is our framework for live previewing changes. We are committed to providing live preview for all aspects of site customization and making it usable on all devices from phones to large screens.
Introduced in 3.4, the Customizer has had a lot of work over the last 9 releases, but that work is not done:
The customizer has come a long way, but it still lacks some features and needs time to mature. We have many improvements planned and in-progress, including transactions, partial refresh, theme installation, speedier loading, scaling to large screens, and possibly even integration with front end editing. Our live preview framework offers many possibilities.
They make it pretty clear that the customizer is the future for live previewing administrative changes to WordPress websites. He also notes that it will continue to be an iterative process; most WordPress features have worked that way.
As for the menu customizer project, Ryan, Helen, and Sheri say for certain that the traditional menu interface will co-exist with the menu customizer for the foreseeable future. Helen and other members of the core team have also noted publicly that the original merge proposal overstated the likelihood the traditional menu system would be removed anytime soon.
The process for brainstorming, deciding to move forward, developing, proposing, and merging feature plugins can be complicated. I hope to have a post explaining how core features are decided on and developed in the near future. This particular feature has had quite a bit of public backlash, but has also been misinterpreted some.
There are still potential blockers for the menu customizer, though if the next week or so goes well it will likely be merged into trunk for 4.3 release, and iterated on in subsequent releases.
The best thing you can do, if you want to have a say in this project, is to get involved by testing, making recommendations, and generally taking part in the project. Ryan, Helen, and Sheri ask for help in the post. Whether a critic or fan, you can contribute by installing it, test-driving it, and help make it as best it can be.