The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the august body that keeps straight the top-level domains of the Internet, would like you to know the Internet has gotten too crowded.
Since people like you refuse to get off it to leave more space for people at ICANN, ICANN has had to do something to reduce the overcrowding.
(Actually it had to do something about the overcrowding starting in June of 2008, when it announced it would expand the number of top-level domains and thereby the number of virtual addresses available; until now it hasn't gotten around to actually making those changes, but has talked about it enough to give the appearance of activity to those who don't look too closely.)
After three years of discussion over how many new top-level domains should join the existing 22 (somewhere between "a few" and "thousands" has been the best estimate), ICANN took a huge step last June: it announced again it would increase the number of top-level domains at some time in the future.
In January of 2012 ICANN made another important announcement: it would expand the number of top-level domains, possibly by 100 million, not just a few thousand.
Rather than choose all the new top level domains itself, ICANN decided to allow anyone to create a top level domain using whatever term.com they liked, but that registering a domain would cost $185,000 rather than being free.
It worked out so well ICANN made no real progress on it until April, when ICANN had again announced it would take applications for new TLDs. A security glitch in the system it planned to use to track the domains caused another delay that became a serious problem only in that it was impossible to tell the difference between an ICANN delay and normal ICANN progress.
It declared victory and moved on; more accurately, it continued with its previous level of progress. The new TLDs remained entirely theoretical.
Five days ago ICANN made another dramatic breakthrough: it announced again it would begin accepting applications for new TLDs by May 22 and announce the winners of the new domains sometime after that.
The change will alter the entire face of the Internet, if ICANN can ever find the Internet's face. Or the Internet.
In the meantime, alternate domain-name provider OpenNIC has created a number of new top-level domain names that allow site names to be registered free and that work with the standard (still unchanged) 22 master TLDs maintained by ICANN.
The biggest difference between new TLDs from ICANN and from OpenNIC is that the OpenNIC domains exist. It is up to individual users or organizations to decide if they are technically savvy enough to adapt to this radical break from the ICANN tradition.
The good thing about the OpenNIC domains is that they offer some promise of change, while allowing members of the Internet community to go back to ignoring ICANN as an incompetent, possibly inimical bureaucracy whose only saving grace is that most of the activity and decisions are made by unoccupied chairs at empty desks, rather than the human employees who continually announce new phases of the aging TLD process without doing anything about it.
The best thing about the OpenNIC process is that it allows anyone to register as a pirate without the risk that copyright trolls will pursue and extort money from them for no logical reason.
The .pirate domain was created, registered and is maintained by a member of Canadian Pirate Party, but is not affliated with it. The CPP is a genuine political party that supports the free flow of information, end to abusive copyright restrictions and prosecutions, advocates net neutrality, open-access to government data and the protection of individual privacy through both legal and technical means. [Note: a previous version of this story erred by saying the CPP owns .pirate; in fact, no one owns a .pirate.]
The party was forced to declare itself Pirate due to its support of so many priorities of the majority of Internet users, requirements of the Constitutions of Western nations, commonly accepted ethical principles and support of fair play that it was banned from participating in any legitimate political forum or existing within any universe dominated by unfettered Wall Street capitalists and Facebook counter-privacy worms.
(Btw, if you want to register TalkLikeA.Pirate, which comes with the right to talk like a pirate at any time, not only on International Talk Like a Pirate Day, as well as the inalienable right to fly the Jolly Roger without joining a hacktivist or BitTorrent-defense group, and to abuse the word "arrrrh" at will, you could, theoreticaly. Realistically, you can't; it's taken. By me. Arrr.)
The last best thing about OpenNIC and the .pirate domains is that they allow you to register a pirate domain without having to read or understand any of the nonsense about ICANN and its four-year new-TLD trip to nowhere. You can simply enjoy being a .pirate without any worries about ICANN's Internet superhighway-to-nowhere or the need to preserve your own dignity.
ICANN has plenty of dignity for everyone, and look how far that's gotten us.
Read more of Kevin Fogarty's CoreIT blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Kevin on Twitter at @KevinFogarty. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.