Since early days there were .net .com .org .gov .int and the country codes - all controlled by Network Solutions/InterNIC/ICANN. In July 2000 ICANN proposed some new TLDs: shop, .tel, and .news. Then a few days later it was .shop, .travel, .news, (.sex OR || .xxx), .web, .arts, .store.
In previous years they had already irritated many with unweildly policies to the effect of "you don't own your domain". Efforts were made to make new TLDs under better management.
Clear Channel spot.cc : with the TLD .cc have clearly defined policies and grant rights of rent to the domain holder.
OpenNIC unrated.net : sports an interesting range of .opennic, .null, .oss, .geek, and .parody TLDs. The Parody TLD being quite useful in clearly distinguishing commercial parody from fake companies passing themselves off as Microsoft. Helps those awful peta.com (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) vs peta.org (People Eat Tasty Animals) situations, eh? OpenNIC are proposing several future TLDs including .search, .groovy, and .bbs.
Unfortunately these efforts were useless to a large degree. Spot.cc is available via ICANN but only because .cc used to be a small country (thus already in the door). Many DNS servers don't recognise anything that's not provided by ICANN. Because although anyone's welcome to make a DNS server's news.com point at goatse.cx no one will use your DNS - and you're still under ICANN's thumb.
Add the DNS server "126.96.36.199" to your TCP/IP settings in order to access a quite comprehensive list of responsible rogues (they don't have alternative .com's - they just list what they've claimed themselves). Then you can access http://the.earth.