I joined faction warfare just after it launched, by joining 0utbreak. Upon launch, faction warefare gave some harsh penalties to being a loser: you lost docking rights to stations in FW systems you n0 longer controlled.
Sure, alts existed, markets existed and you could go and work on your standings to eventually switch sides if you really wanted – but the pain was there. Loss of access didn’t just hurt your wallet, it hurt your ability to fight back.
Upwell structures clearly have many glaring problems that discourage fighting, but one particular issue is that of Citadels in faction war space.
CCP have introduced some solid tethering restrictions, but being able to dock still removes all strategic meaning behind territorial control.
Content creates further content – the rise of large pirate player presence in lowsec was a direct result of a rise in activity from the introduction of faction warfare.
In the Snuff Box days, faction war groups fielded huge (for the time) capital fleets and flew organised heavy compositions. They fought tooth and nail for territorial control, and made good use of the rewards. Losing access was reasonably harsh, but people put far more at risk – in 2020, loss of docking access in stations is virtually irrelevant for faction warfare, and activity is limited to fleets that are a shadow of what they used to be.