I used to be big into MMOs and I think there is no way for a long time for them to really pull me back in.
The reason is the removing of the exploratory, hidden and threatening nature of the games. In capturing ever larger audiences the parts that may be deemed frustrating to any large % of that audience have been streamlined and removed. It has reached a point that regardless of differences in the games the world and exploring them has the same boring feel in every one that I have tried (outside of EvE which has its own problem).
EvE is pretty much a perfect modern ecosystem for showing what that kind of population will become in a more player driven world. It doesn't tend to exorcise the combat / fighting it tends to explode it and bring out new fun ways for players to find to grief one and other. Which Jeff M I am sorry but I have a feeling your idea for a next gen MMO that doesn't focus on combat falls on its face because the modern audience in a large world area will always find a way to do that stuff because it is the culture of both games and the internet.