What? Directory entries and inodes aren't tied together in the fs model at all, except that each directory entry increases i_nlink in the corresponding inode by one.
That's a pretty tight bond, especially since i_nlink controls when the inode/file gets deleted. Also, you can't make the kernel create an inode without also creating a directory entry, and except temporarily, an inode cannot exist without at least one directory entry associated with it. Those are the bonds that it would be nice to get away from, as pretty much every OS except Unix does.
Reflinks simply would ...
We must be talking about different things. I was just talking about what Unix should do instead of what it always has (as a fundamental design point) done. Nothing to do with reflinks. And I'm also not claiming it would be compatible with any existing Unix application, but I do believe every application could be done at least as well with a kernel without automatic file deletion and directories.
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