The workflow with version ranges should be the same as with soft versions (snapshot, release, snapshot), only now we're changing the upper bound instead. The release plugin helps automate this currently and there's no reason why it couldn't also help with version ranges too.
I may be missing the point, but please explain to me how the release plugin is supposed to manage dependencies in downstream projects. The release plugin only does update the artifact version in the project that is being released. It does not update dependency versions in the dependent projects (unless they are modules in the same reactor) and never did. Moreover, if project A depends on a snapshot version of project B, the release plugin will fail to release project A until the dependency on B is changed to release version. One of the reasons we are using version ranges is to avoid unnecessary switching between snapshot and release dependencies through editing the POM files.
At the moment, suppose we have the following dependency chain (-> means "depends on"):
A -> B:[2.0,3.0) -> C:[1.3,1.4) -> D:[3.5,4.0)
Suppose one makes a trivial bug fix to upstream library D and wants to test its effect locally in downstream project A before releasing both D and A. At the moment, any change in D is automatically picked up by version resolution in A, as long as the snapshot version of D stays in the defined range.
If we go down the route you are suggesting, does that mean that one would need to change the whole chain of dependencies to the following, and build local snapshots of all 4 projects in the reverse order?
A -> B:[2.0-SNAPSHOT,3.0) -> C:[1.3-SHAPSHOT,1.4) -> D:[3.5-SNAPSHOT,4.0)
Suppose it is not a chain, but a graph of dependencies, which is more like we typically have in the real world. Imagine a typical developer working through the graph, updating dependency versions in POMs to snapshots along the effective dependency path? This is where blind hatred of Maven starts. And how will version resolution work if one branch of the graph allows snapshots in ranges and the other does not?
Again, I apologise if I am missing the point, but can somebody please provide an example of a detailed development and release workflow if we go down the route of explicitly specifying snapshots in version ranges.