Is it common practice to register domains under fake names?
I'm trying to register a domain, but I do not want my name to appear in the WHOIS directory.
Let's just say the site I'm trying to register promotes an opinion not everyone agrees with, and it's best to remain anonymous.
No it's not. You must use your real legitimate details for whois or ICANN has right to take the domain. If someone complain then you might loose your domain. Also I don't see why you need to use fake details unless you are trying to do something illegal. Also if you are going to start an online business then using Fake Whois details makes your site loosing credibility.
Most registrars will offer some from of privacy protection, normally at some extra cost. This generally registers them in your name as before, but will hide personal information. People can still you contact you, but will not see your email, etc.
It all depends on the tld though and who is responsible for them. .uk domains for example, all come with free WHOIS opt out.
I just got myself a domain name and got WhoisGuard to protect my privacy. Lucky for me it was free as I didn't know what it was at first and probably wouldn't have paid for it. But now that I've discovered what it does I am happy with that. (I got my name from Namecheap, which gives free WhoisGuard for those who may be interested).
Why does ICANN require a lot of person information? It is no longer practical to collect your real name, telephone number and even your address. This is because many people are not willing to use their real names and would probably use fake names especially in Facebook. Many websites such as Frihost do not require using your real name.