First, the legacy (ICANN/VGR or USG) root. The original DNS system had two branches: the three letter global Top-Level Domains (gTLDs) such as .com and friends, and the 2 letter Country-Code TLDs (ccTLDs), such as .de, .uk and so on. This root was started under the auspices of the U.S. Government , which continues to control it through its spin-off, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) who have contracted most operations to Verisign Global Registry (VGR), formally Network Solutions Incorporated (NSI).
The first alternative to this was AlterNIC, established by Eugene Kashpuref. After that, I'm uncertain as to the timetable when each root was set up but the latest to join this circus was New.net, established in a large marketing blitz this past week. So the list of DNS roots, as it stands now (and in alphabetical order, to avoid offending anyone) is, to my knowledge:, the list below. There have been some that have come and gone, but these are currently operating:
As you can see from this, New.net is only the latest (though probably best funded) addition to a longstanding tradition of resistance to the system that has become ICANN. It's important to remember this as you see the mainstream (and some techincal) press lavishing praise on VC-funded New.net as being a revolutionary new concept and read its president's statements about "patent-pending" new technology. They're not doing anything revolutionary or new, really; they're joining the ranks that include groups which have been operating for 6-7 years.
Most of these pre-existing groups are interested in cooperating with each other and, though there are problems on this front, arranging their systems so that they do not publish TLDs which conflict with the others (PacificRoot has been particularly noteworthy in this respect). We (the OpenNIC) have been working towards peering agreements with all of these (except New.net, which only just popped up), and have already begun peering with AlterNIC. The vote on OpenNIC's peering with Pacific Root, in fact, closes today after its 7 day voting period (and has no "no" votes yet).
The problem New.net brings up immediately is that, at their launch, they have published several TLDs that directly conflict with TLDs being served by pre-existing roots. A provisional list of collisions (provided by Dena, of Quasar Internet), is:
This would mean that, if the identified collisions are all accurate, New.net has only created two non-colliding TLDs:
That's not playing nice ... ;-)
This is just a gloss, with a focus on how New.net's launch hasn't been in the best interest of the alternative DNS systems. New.net seems, in fact, to be setting themselves up as a market capitalist extension of ICANN as (as a subscriber to the OpenNIC discussion list recently put it):
One root to rule them all ...
If you folks are interested in seeing more on the alternative DNS systems, I'll wrap up and post an article on it here (probably not before next week; busy, busy).
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.