It was a jokeNot likely, too many bugs to fix from 2.2.8 and earlier.
Sure, but charging you extra for getting usable search doesn't really make sense to me. The extra code in Xenforo is pretty minimal.The main drama with 2) is that smaller servers won‘t necessarily support ElasticSearch as a backend. I don't know if there are any shared hosting providers that even provide an ES instance to use.
If you’re on a VPS this is of course doable but hard to setup if you're not used to it, and out of scope for XF to explain the how. (Some managed services e.g. Cloudways will install an ES instance for you.)
I migrated to Xenforo from phpbb as it seemed that XF had much more active development - while it is better, two years and counting between software updates is very long time…