What Blizzard needs to do is to provide incentive to leave major cities again. You can essentially go anywhere in the whole world without leaving a capital city. Dungeons, raids, battlegrounds, auctions and professions, and various other things you can do without actually moving your character. That's not a great incentive in a world where the magic of exploration and mystery is a central theme. If players had to 'discover' the real locations of Battleground, Raid and Dungeon instances before being able to queue for them then that might resolve a bit of the issue. Re-scattering some of the NPCs like profession trainers and certain quest NPCs would help as well. Perhaps even allocate class trainers around the world where only certain spells can be learned from certain trainers.
Part of the magic of the classic WoW was that you had to hunt for things. Today, you can run a search on WoWhead for any quest or NPC (keep in mind that I'm not blaming WoWhead and WoW databases for the problem) without any in-game hunting at all. The ingame map quest highlighter is also worth of mention here, as is the function that illuminates, with the most obnoxious of sparkles, the quest items you are looking for. No 'risk' is involved and thus no reward. Too many things are handed to you with no work involved. Your time spent in the game, aside from gear acquisition, doesn't feel as rewarding as it used to.
For me, to help alleviate some of these issues, I choose not to run WoWhead searches unless absolutely necessary and I also choose not to use the ingame quest-helper. I read the quest and search for the locations and requirements myself, without having the map highlighter dumb it down for me. These may seem like miniscule points, but sometimes it's the little things that matter. The exploration factor in the world has been partially eliminated in an attempt to make the game more new-player friendly. There's nothing wrong with making a game user-friendly, but to abolish fun factor along with it is a mistake of drawing the line, and I think that's what Blizzard has somewhat unintentionally done. There's no incentive to go out in the world anymore and meet players.
Ofcourse, this is not just a mechanics problem on Blizzard's part. It's a social issue, too. It is in large also a fault of the community's degradation of societial pleasantries. Running into other players should be fun, not a nuisance.
I'm not cynical, by the way. I'm a die-hard day one player, and these are just a few things that have been on my mind.
Edited by Vesania on 12/22/2011 8:04 AM PST