Re: It's stupid having to pay someone for a dot and some letters
I didn't know about new.net. Very cool. And I agree with you to a point about the concern for scam websites. So, block registrations of domains that duplicate ICANN DNS. And an alternate DNS network would not place you in a walled garden if it federated/relayed to ICANN DNS upon finding no registrations. Competing DNS systems don't need to cause confusion as long as they simply duplicate ICANN while adding additional services.
Signing up for a new domain name should be as free and simple as signing up for a new email address! Sure, people registered lots of "look alike" emails for nefarious purposes, but we've coped just fine. Assuming an alternate DNS network achieves critical mass and takes over enough of ICANN's turf, the worst that could happen is ICANN gives up on dot-tld and likewise allows anyone to effectively create their own "TLD" for far less than $185,000.00!! I think either Google or Mozilla could manage this almost instantly. FreeDNS or OpenDNS could provide the backbone for it, but of course Google could use their own large network of DNS servers.
It seems like much of the problems we have with the Internet today (high price, poor customer service, walled gardening), actually are about a lack of competition. My main issue with ICANN being that they're obviously a monopoly for-profit corporation posing as a caring non-profit. They have too much power and offer too little for the "services" they impose. They're toll-guards, not facilitators now. I think they're doing enough harm now, that feeling some heat would be good for them. The idea of competing/federated DNS networks scares me less than what I think ICANN might do to maintain their grip on our cohones.