zsh has also long tried this, but the main issues is that people still want to write bash scripts ;-)
I think the osh/oil split is a good (less cumbersome?) way to try to manage this need.
Does it still work now? How do I opt-in to this in zsh?
I believe it is even on by default! setopt NO_SH_WORD_SPLIT
the oil @split function is written $=variable
The HN thread has some detail on that: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26686201
zsh doesn’t split, but it still omits empty strings, unless you opt out of that.
I’ve been tempted to try out one of the ‘new generation’ shells like oil or elvish.