As far as I’m aware, the size of the cluster hasn’t changed significantly (and it shouldn’t) since 2007-2008, but do correct me if I’m wrong. Allow me to share my humble thoughts.
This would probably make it feel more like the old days, the “frontier” days if you will; the days where one could go several systems without seeing anything living; the days when solo PVP happened.
That said, I see the problem you’re getting at. EVE is losing population. This is a serious problem that won’t reverse itself until something changes at CCP. What I think is happening is basically what happened with WiS come full-circle; they have an idea of what will make EVE (the “internet spaceships”, specifically, I believe was the term used at the time) “better” and–from my observations, at least–without bothering to truly listen to their playerbase’s input, instead suffering from a severe case of confirmation bias (or perhaps they are deafened by the CSM), ram their (ill-considered) ideas into release.
Don’t get me wrong, a lot of good things have been done; for instance, the new structures are nothing short of glorious and I love them dearly. But certain other things have, I think, fundamentally changed the nature of EVE; evidently, ultimately for the worse. Crimewatch 2.0 and the new wardec system, for example. EVE is supposed to be a sandbox, and technically, I suppose, it is; but it is a sandbox with safety nets and padded walls, neither of which should ever be put anywhere near EVE. Without risk, there can be no true reward, and EVE is quickly speeding towards a world without risk.
In addition, the adding of shortcuts to certain levels of achievement has, I think, cheapened the experience greatly. I remember people used to train for years to become capital pilots; now some fresh-off-the-clone-press noob can do it in, what, 3 months? The exact time escapes me. This was exacerbated by the skill injector system. Yes, it has a check that reduces its effect the more skillpoints you have. But that still does not change the fact that it essentially allows you to skip a huge portion of training. Rookies have it easier than ever before; and I think that this is another fundamental problem in today’s EVE. The experience has been cheapened. Surviving your first few weeks used to be as close to a badge of honor as one could have gotten at that stage, not so long ago. The universe still shat on you, though. I remember aspiring to be an EWAR pilot (which eventually, I did, not long before the skill injectors came). I planned my training path, I spent at least a year, problably more, improving and perfecting my skills and fits. Now, anyone can do it all too easily; my experience, my time spent perfecting my art, has been cheapened. I know for a fact I’m not the only one with this experience, and for a hobbyist, I can think of no greater an insult.