Similarly, while I think things like having the software lists will make MESS easier to use up front, I don't think it'll have any significant impact on usage. Even if it were merged with MAME the net effect would be that more people would have the code but wouldn't actually use it. MAMEPlus has included MESS drivers forever (and a ton of filters!) and makes them as easy as any other console emulator through it's GUI and nobody uses the MESS drivers there either.
Most of the Megadrive reports I've had are from Mame32plus users, not MESS or plain HazeMD, although half of them have turned out to be because of dodgy compile options people often use with said build, or were due to bad roms because of it using the MESS driver rather than the hazemd fixed lists.
I think a lot of people just give up because they can't work out where to put the roms tho due to MESS expecting everything in very specific software folders, rather than just the correct zipname in 'roms'. I very much hope that once the software lists are in then MESS will happily look in the root roms folder for bios + software roms if it doesn't find them in the system folders.
Saying nobody uses them is pushing it a bit tho. I suspect more people use them there than in MESS which again might not be helping the reputation because they tend to be less stable than in the official MESS releases.