EQ's population is doing fine.
The UI is fully customizable, if you don't like it, there's ALOT you can do about it.
They have completly redone the 1-20 game, you get spells at every level now, there are purchasable healing potions, clairity potions, and many new melee abilities.
All races/classes start in the same area, this brings all noobs in the game together.
As an EQ Veteran, i'd have absolutely no problem whatsoever rolling a character starting with nothing at all, and owning the game. I'd be 50 inside a month. 60 in another month and 70 a couple months later. I could do it without investing anymore/less time then I would in Wow or EQ2. In fact i know for sure i'd advance much faster in EQ1 then eq2.
Roll a solo class, (Necro,Mage, Shaman, Beastlord, wizard, druid) and you can start with no gear/plat and be highly sucessful.