Current Populations levels 8,441 as of 10/01/11 suggests that the server is still ticking with that of one-third the of some of the highest population servers such as Darkspear, Mal'Ganis, Earthen Ring, Korgath and Lightbringer. Most guilds on AoS rank within the top 10k of the world, and the server is welcoming new players across the board encouraging them to bring their friends and break new ground and level the playing field for some of the top spots for progression and pvp/arena in the world.
Like dueling? For the Alliance, go to Ironforge, and right in front of the bank, you'll always find people dueling, saying hello to their friends, then kick their butts and ribbing them about it, publicly. For the Horde, outside Orgrimmar is a popular destination for the serious duelist. Many a casual Orgrimmar raid of Alliance players have been smashed by them.
But all in all, Altar of Storms is a realm to see more world PvP than PvE. But, still you may catch a break and get a /wave by an ally instead.
The server has seen some tough times. The first four months are still remembered fondly by the old-timers, with all the activity presented by re-roll guilds competing for server firsts when Altar of Storms first opened. The population exploded to a "High" status very quickly. But with a cap on incoming transfers that lasted long, and the lowbie alt that couldn't transfer their main characters here, players started looking elsewhere to transfer. Which ultimately prevented the server from maintaining a strong World presence.
By September and October 2006, the re-roll guilds started transferring off. By late October, Altar of Storms' population was so low that it received the notorious label of a "Recommended" server. Since then, even though the population has rebounded to medium level, progression is happening. Many older members believe progression happens at too slow a rate for many hardcore members of this realm, the old forum trolls have dubbed AoS a "Dead" server since September 2006.
In spite of it's past history, new players to WoW, casual players, and hardcore players from servers in worse shape appear to believe the server is fine, using the lively forum discussion and entertaining forum PVP the forum trolls participate in as evidence. The early server struggles forged a close bond between the players. Former players who have transferred still lurk around and post on the forums, swapping stories about that first summer when everything was new, or goading and joshing the new players about how no guild compares when giants such as when <Hate Plow> and <Mindtrip> walked the realm.
The Burning Crusade
Ever since Patch 2.3 was released in November 2007 with Leveling Improvements many players have started re-rolling new characters, and experimenting with different classes, giving the low level maps — especially the Alliance's Elwynn Forest and Westfall — a wave of tremendous activity. Alliance players will get their first introduction to the opposite faction, the Horde, who are quite active in the Moonbrook section of Westfall. The Horde routinely run Deadmines, and put hits out on the Defias Messenger, The Defias Traitor, and any Alliance member who dares engage them in combat. Likewise, low-level Horde players are often visited by Alliance players who spontaneously organize raids on their Trade channel to the Crossroads via the Booty Bay ferry in Stranglethorn Vale and Ratchet. The Undead starting realms are always being invaded by Alliance members who raid Brill, sometimes taking potshots at the questgivers on their way to the Scarlet Monastery.
Regarding progression: Hordeside, Cynosure paved the way by killing Illidan just before Christmas 2007, and Bloodsky, Alliance-side, had killed Mother_Shahraz and was working their way to Illidan for the first kill Alliance side and the only guild in Hyjal and Black Temple at the time. Numerous casual guilds had a blast simply kicking around in Karazhan, wiping on Zul'Aman, and dreaming of Gruul's_Lair.
Wrath of the Lich King
WotLK brought back great competition with the much friendlier environments Blizzard provided. There was much competition Between the Top guilds Valence, Lok Tar, Convergence, DoMiNioN and Manus Domini for Server Firsts. Valence obliterated the competition by continually achieving Server First in almost every category/boss/achievement for Naxxramas, EoE, OS, Ulduar, ToC and ICC.
The levels of competition on the server sought the new addition of many ex-Vanilla players coming back to the game to prove a new name for themselves. This also ushered in the term of "Wrath-Baby" to many of the players that experienced later content after instance nerfs.
Cataclysm proved to be the breaker of players nurtured from the easy-mode feel of Wrath and brought the server to a highly competitive state. New guilds such as I like Turtles, DCL, Impolite Socialites and Wipe It are eager to push Heroic content at a fast pace and have been helpful in moving the servers ranking up from 230 back in WotLK to the current 141 Place in the US Server Category.
This Expansion should prove to be a major revival for the server, only time will tell.
For more information on the early history:
View these threads on Forums.Worldofwarcraft.Com / Altar of Storms --