Most people are under the impression that MUDs seem to be dying out - Generally speaking, most people are right. However, all things aside, that isn't exactly true.
Zuggsoft reports 3600 sold copies of zMUD last year, and roughly 82.000 startups of their newest release (CMUD client). For those who are unaware, zMUD and now CMUD is a 'MUD Client', tailored towards making playing text-based games as pleasurable and as convenient as possible. The reason I bring this up, is to portray the fact that Zuggsoft has a lot of MUD traffic passing through it.
Every year, Zuggsoft holds a bidding session for which 10 MUDs to appear in their 'featured' list. This list appears when you start up a Zuggsoft client for the first time, and continually so unless you explicitly remove them.
This year, Zuggsoft made approximately $14.000 off the bidding session. The minimum bids started at $1000, with a maximum of 10 spots available. According to Zugg of Zuggsoft, this was the most fair way in which to determine what 10 MUDs to list. The idea behind the featured list, according to Zugg, is to attempt to retain new MUD players by offering them a list of very solid choices to begin with, so as not to 'scare' the player away.
I find the whole thing very fascinating, and while I do agree that usually you will tie quality to commercial products, I think this falls through with reguard to MUDs. The MUDs which are a profit business at the moment, are either completely pay to play (Avalon), or pay-for-perks (Aetolia, Medievia, f.ex.). Does the fact that they retain enough players with money to spend on the MUD imply playing quality?
Perhaps it does, perhaps it doesn't.. In any case, its fairly clear to me that the MUD community is not that at all - The MUD playerbase is spread out across microcommunities, all fighting against eachother to grasp at players with anything they can. There are no free, public, oft-visited venues of advertisement that work well for MUDs - The only central venue is Zuggsoft. I wonder how much this is due to MUDConnector's rather difficult website design (www.mudconnector.com), how much is due to a general loss of quality from source leaking (harder to find good games in the mass), and how much is REALLY due to players not wanting to play MUDs.
I'd love to know how many players tried MUDding and then stopped, and why they did so. Perhaps a better structured method of community nurturing would centralize things a bit, and give room for proper exposing of quality products.
One thing is clear though: Thanks BYOND, for taking a more sane approach to things than MUDConnector and the MUD communities originally did. The channels idea alone would work wonders on MUDConnector, where its virtually impossible to find something you like unless you randomly stumble upon it.