Canadians shopping online overwhelmingly want to support their own, according to results of a survey released Thursday by the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA).

Of the 1,078 Canadian Internet users surveyed, 70 per cent said they would prefer to do their holiday shopping on dot-ca Web sites rather than dot-com sites. Seventy-one per cent said they prefer using services on dot-ca sites because dot-cas belong to Canadian organizations. Those surveyed constitute an established online panel representative of Canadian Internet users.

“There are some positive attributes, in the early days, associated with the dot-ca,” said Allan Gregg, chairmanof The Strategic Counsel, the research firm commissioned by CIRA to do the survey. He added that the reasons for dot-ca preference has little to do with issues like site security and technical quality, as dot-cas and dot-coms scored very well in these areas. “At this junction, they have everything to do with pure emotionalism, i.e., pure nationalism.”

Those surveyed also feel domestic businesses should show similar pride in their country by having dot-ca domain names for their sites. Initially, 81 per cent said Canadian businesses and organizations should use the dot-ca domains for the sites, and the figure rose to 92 per cent after respondents were told more about the dot-ca domain.

After being given more information, 77 per cent said when possible, they would choose to shop on a dot-ca retail site instead of a dot-com site. The aforementioned responses regarding holiday shopping and web services also came after respondents were given information about the dot-ca domain.

The findings seem to contradict the idea that dot-com domains are crucial to attract eyeballs and shopping dollars. Though more respondents recognized the dot-com than the dot-ca as being used by large and successful organizations, the majority of respondents associated those attributes with both domains rather than one or the other.

Judging by the growth in dot-ca domain registrations, organizations in Canada recognize the importance of being clearly Canadian. According to CIRA, dot-ca registrations have increased from 60,000 to 275,000 since the body took responsibility for the domain names in December, 2000.

And according to the study, Canadians will be more apt to register dot-ca than dot-com domains in the future. Of the eight per cent that had registered a domain in the past 12 months, 57 per cent registered a dot-com and 58 per cent registered a dot-ca. But when asked what domain they would choose if they were registering today, 51 per cent said dot-ca and only 10 per cent said dot com.

“The dot-ca has some real momentum,” Gregg said. “When you look at intention, that 1-1 moves to five-to-one.”

The top five reasons respondents gave for favouring the dot-ca were all variations on the pro-Canadian theme.

However, the enthusiasm for the dot-ca domain name is not matched by knowledge of how to get one. Only 16 per cent said they would know how to register a dot-ca domain name, 53 per cent had no clue who manages the dot-ca domain and only 18 per cent said they were aware of CIRA.

“Registering domain names, while easy for those who have done it, is still unfamiliar to most,” Gregg said. “While their hearts might be (towards dot-ca), education must follow.”

CIRA spokesman Garbiel Ahad said the pro-Canadian survey results will help CIRA develop its communications and marketing programs over the next year.

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