Are they still accomplishing the same goal they used to? Buffs used to be important, there used to be a time where whether or not you could complete certain challenges hinged on them. Let's look back to 'vanilla' World of Warcraft and a spell called Mark of the Wild. Mark of the Wild was pretty much the best player provided buff in the entire game. It would provided by druids to give extra armor, increase all primary attributes and increase all spell resistances for 10 minutes (If I remember that part right). There was no other buff like it in the game, and you could feel the difference when it was cast on you. Now this was also back in the day of linear gear scaling, where 'outgearing' content was a much harder thing to do.
Today, outgearing things is easy due to exponential scaling, and thus buffs mean very little. Mark of the Wild is no longer unique as it is identical to a paladin's Blessing of Kings, no longer provides armour, and no longer provides spell resistances (Spell resistances were removed from the game.) and lasts an hour. You won't notice if it's there or not, and nothing hinges on the power it provides.
Only one example, but most buffs feel that way now, you just don't notice or care all that much.
Next is how we apply buffs. Buffs were a reason to group with people, bring certain classes and and promote socialization. It used to be applied player by player, but now affects the entire group at once, I support this change. In large groups, having to apply it to everyone one by one was a giant pain, and I don't want to go back to the 5 minutes buffs of classic paladin blessings as sometimes their entire group roll was just to keep those buffs up.
But surely there is a way to make buffs matter a bit more then a fire and forget click once per hour. no, feeling a buff I think largely hangs on linear vs exponential progression, then sooner and easier you outgear things, the less buffs matter.
So assuming buffs feel powerful, here how I would have them applied. First, makes them a passive, BUT BEAR WITH ME. This is not a single binary are you close or not deal. We'll use the example of a druid with mark of the wild. To the druid, this is something that is always on, upon spawning in the world, the buff begins to build up to full power over 30 seconds. Should Mark of the Wild be dispelled off the druid, it once again must build up over 30 seconds to it's full power. This is two fold, the druid no longer has a pointless button to press, and dispelling it can't be countered by just clicking the button again. To teammates, the buff builds up by being in proximity to the druid. Over 30 seconds it raises up to full power and then begins to stack duration. Every second spent in proximity to the druid adds a second to the duration timer until it reaches a maximum. We can make this 5-10minutes. As soon as the player leaves the druid's proximity, the duration timer ticks down, until within the final 30seconds the buff itself powers down to nothing.
This promotes group play, you get buffs by being near the player that provides them, and wandering off means you're going to loose it. If a group spawns in pvp, and a lone wolf immediately runs off away from everyone else, he won't have these buffs. But those who stick together will. This also means social hubs like cities become even better places to gather, as you'll gain an assortment of buffs just by hanging around.
Perhaps it's just a pipe dream, but that's the kind of buff system I want to see. But how they're applied only means as much as the buff provided, and if it means nothing.... then what's the difference?