Over the past few years, we’ve been removing the old-style Surface behavior in favor of better methods. Last fall, we removed Hinge and Motor surfaces, and at that point, the Surface tool in the Model tab became solely a visual change. (In case you didn’t see, we recently released a Surface Orientation Indicator to help you quickly identify the front face, since some of you used those surface types to determine “front”).
Continuing this evolution away from Surfaces, we are removing the Surface tool and marking the API deprecated. We will maintain the API for backwards compatibility for the foreseeable future. Because the API exists, it’s possible to write a plugin to restore the tool’s behavior, if you need.