I'm now operating FreeNIC (https://www.freenic.org/), which is a completely free and open root zone that does not currently peer with any other DNS roots (incl. ICANN and OpenNIC). Our TLDs are completely community operated and primarily for personal usage, we don't require or encourage second-level registration.
I'm not here to propose a peering agreement. Angelica was here earlier proposing the same thing, and it wasn't received well. I don't think that's in line with either of our ideals in any case.
I'm here proposing a strategic partnership of sorts: OpenNIC has very strict guidelines behind whether or not a top-level domain is approved, which I see as very limiting in terms of new members. Because FreeNIC has opposite ideals with 100% acceptance, I was thinking our infrastructure would make for a good DNS staging area for prospective TLD operators to get a feel for actually operating a Top-Level Domain. They would be able to use our infrastructure to get their domain configured, get a registration system setup, and essentially proof-of-concept their design so you all here can see exactly how it will operate before accepting it into the OpenNIC root.
Transitioning to OpenNIC would be easy as well, it would simply require the operator to set the OpenNIC root as their root zone, and require you adding their zone to your root. TLDs could easily coexist across the networks as well with minimal server configuration required.
I personally think it's a win-win situation, we already have the infrastructure setup that would make this a perfect staging area for new members. OpenNIC could point to running a TLD with us to allow operators to prove their ideas can stand up in the long term. You could also make prior operation a requirement in this case, as they would have a fully-fledged system to test against. And of course, this partnership would allow us to gain more traffic from another highly-relevant community.
I'm not pushing this forward to a vote quite yet, simply gathering opinions.
I'm available as jonaharagon on OpenNIC's IRC server, or on FreeNIC's IRC: https://www.freenic.org/irc/ if you have questions or concerns.
I think this could be a mutually beneficial idea, what do you guys think? Anything I should add/clarify?