Since its birth in 1987, the dot-ca domain has clawed its way to the 17th largest domain type on the Web. Now Calgary lawyer Brent Krause’s Web site has tipped the dot-ca registry over the one million mark.

A million reasons why Canadians love the .ca domain

Having jumped the one million domains hurdle, the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) now plans to campaign on the strength of a dot-ca address in a bid to boost market share in Canada, according to the Authority’s president.

When Calgary-based lawyer Brent Krause registered www.krauslaw.ca on April 13, he tipped the dot-ca registry over the one million domain mark.

The lawyer has a few dot-ca sites, but had no idea he was going to hold the one-millionth Canadian-specific domain name.

“As a small business operator, he got considerable publicity around this,” says Byron Holland, CIRA president. Krause also received a plaque and 10 free years of domain registry for creating the landmark site.

Celebrating the occasion at a gala in Ottawa yesterday, CIRA is also using the event as the start of a wider effort to raise awareness of the benefits of holding a dot-ca Web site. Currently ranked as the 17th largest Internet domain registry, the authority hopes to make some ground on more popular domains such as dot-com.

“This organization grew up providing a great technical function,” Holland says. “The next phase in our path is to help spread this message about why this is a great registry with some real benefits.”

Two national newspapers featured full-page ads about the one-millionth domain registry, he adds. CIRA will work with its channel partners to help spread the message, starting with the registrars that use the service.

As an additional security feature, the Authority maintains all domain name information so if a registrar crashes, the information can still be retrieved from CIRA’s backup servers, Holland says.

Some more education from CIRA isn’t a bad idea, according to Web designer Matt Wiebe. The St. Stephen, New Brunswick-based student registered www.somadesign.ca back in December, but he wasn’t aware of CIRA’s extra security feature.

 “I was not aware of that, but it is certainly very helpful,” Wiebe says. “I didn’t know and as a Web designer, I tend to be more aware than most people.”

But the Web designer is aware of the Canadian presence requirements that mean “there’s a Canadian behind every dot-ca,” as Holland puts it. Dot-ca registrants must give valid address information, and audits are performed by CIRA at random to catch wannabe-Canucks.

“That means there are just not as many domain squatters as there are on the other addresses,” Wiebe says. “I was actually able to find the proper URL for what I wanted.”

When Wiebe found somadesign.com, it was being held by a squatter who demanded thousands of dollars for the URL.

So Wiebe registered his dot-ca address instead. His site was immediately launched to a top-ranking position on Google Canada’s search, and now the Web designer recommends the domain to all his clients.

“Having the proper name of your business in your URL is helpful for search engine optimization,” he adds.

The dot-ca domain was created in 1987 by a group of volunteers at the University of British Columbia. The school registered 60,000 Web sites between 1988 and 2000, mostly for academic and government use.

But after CIRA took over the registry and opened office in Toronto on May 2, 2001, the number of dot-ca registered sites quickly accelerated. Now the authority is setting its sites on the most-recognized domain on the Web.

“I look at dot-com and it is typically seen as a U.S. brand and it has a dominant market share position in Canada,” Holland says. “We’d certainly like to see dot-ca have more of a market share in our own backyard.”

But the dot-ca address is not appropriate for all Canadian businesses, says Kevin Resitivo, senior software research analyst at Toronto-based consultant firm IDC Canada Inc.

“If you have a business that you intend to be international in scope, it is imperative that you have a dot-com,” he says. “If you are a seller of widgets internationally, then having a dot-ca might not be the best fit for you.”

In further promoting dot-ca, CIRA’s president plans to put a patriotic twist on his message. Canadians are more willing to trust their fellow countrymen in the intimidating landscape of Internet anonymity, and feel assured by CIRA’s Canadian presence guarantee.

“I think Canadians like to do business with Canadians,” he says. “The likelihood of people who are behind dot-cas doing nefarious things is a lot less so than others.”  

Canadians do prefer to shop at dot-ca Web sites, according to a 2005 Statistics Canada survey on Internet use and e-commerce.

Three in four Canadians say they prefer to shop on a dot-ca Web site, and of every $100 spent online by Canadians, $63 was spent with Canadian vendors.

That’s a healthy slice of a $5 billion pie that Canadian consumers spent online in 2005.

Still, CIRA faces a tough job in educating the masses that have associated the dot-com address with the Internet since it became popular, Restivo says.

“The default for most people when going to the Web is to punch in a dot-com address,” he says. “Much like any other regional domain, dot-ca sort of hides in the shadows of the dot-com.”

With the dot-ca domain limited to Canadian use and still lots of room to grow, there are ample business opportunities for companies looking to scoop up a URL containing valuable key words, Wiebe points out.

The Web designer found blogdesign.ca was unclaimed, and snapped it up to support his future business interests.

“That was very surprising,” he says. “This would be unheard of in the dot-com realm. Just about every valuable key word domain has been taken.”

But with the dot-ca domain quickly growing, such plum URLs won’t last forever. The 750,000 mark was hit not too long ago, in October 2006. And when does CIRA expect to reach two million sites?

“In a much shorter time than it took to get one million,” Holland says.

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