CIRA changes remove hassle for domain name owners

Canadian domain name registrars are optimistic that managing their clients’ .ca addresses will become easier when the Canadian Internet Registry Authority (CIRA) rolls out next month a redesigned domain name registration system and implements key policy changes.

CIRA assured local businesses that the changes, to take effect Oct. 12, will not affect their operations in any noticeable way but will streamline the way domain name registrars interact with CIRA in managing their customer’s .ca domain names. The .ca Web address is the top level domain assigned to Canada.

“Your domain name will not be affected, nor will it affect the operations of your Web site or email addresses,” said Jennifer Austin, senior manager of communications for CIRA. Apart from the technology platform revamp, the bulk of the changes will involve removing red tape.

“CIRA is effectively removing itself from many day-to-day transactions. Most transactions will be handled solely by your CIRA-certified registrars and you will no longer need to confirm these transactions with CIRA,” she said.

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The system and policy changes, however, will result in changes to users’ Registrant Agreements for their .ca domains. (The new Registrant Agreement can be viewed here.)

“This is a definite step in the right direction,” according to Mark Jeftovic, president of easyDNS Technologies Inc, a Toronto-based domain name registrar. easyDNS’s clients include large companies such as Torstar and small to medium sized businesses. The registrar manages .ca, .com, .net and .org domain names.

Jeftovic said the new arrangement will hopefully encourage more Canadian businesses to adopt .ca domain names.

Ideally, if you’re a Canadian business, you would like to use a .ca address to differentiate your business from the .com companies out there, Jeftovic says. “But I know that there are a lot of local businesses that don’t use .ca domain names because of the hassle involved.”

For one thing, he said, businesses registering a .ca domain name need to contend with a different set of documents and policies. “The CIRA registration form is 300 pages long. The .com and .net registry authorities only have documents that are four to five pages.”

He also said that with the old system there is also quite an amount of back and forth communications that go on between the registrant, their registrar and CIRA. “When our clients wants to affect a change on their domain name, we contact CIRA and then CIRA still has to confirm the transaction with our clients. The customer just gets bombarded by messages.”

CIRA hears ya

CIRA is well aware of the red tape problem and is addressing it with these changes, according to David Fowler, director or marketing and communications at CIRA.

He said the organization began consultations with registrars and registrants as far back as 2008 to get a sense of what changes were needed. “A survey in 2009 showed that two thirds of registrars support the proposed changes you will see implemented in Oct. 12.”

“When these changes are implemented, registrants will primarily be communicating with their registrars and we will remain largely in the background,” Fowler said.

“We will also replace the proprietary registry system we use with a new industry standard EPP (extensible provisioning protocol) based system that is similar to that used by the other registry authorities,” he added.  EPP is a flexible protocol that enables communication between domain name registries and domain name registrars. Adopting an industry standard system means registrars no longer need use different technology when transacting with CIRA.

“This will make things less complicated. Now we will be able to speak the same language,” said Jeftovic of easyDNS.

Boosting .ca adoption

The changes are meant to boost .ca domain adoption among local businesses, CIRA’s Austin says.

“The domain name market is flattening, but .ca is doing well compared to other top-level domains,” she said.

CIRA says that .ca registrations have been growing at a rate of more than 20 per cent per year for the last five years. By comparison, the .com registration grew only by 16 per cent in 2007, seven per cent in 2008 and five per cent in 2009, said Fowler. CIRA has over 1.5 domain names under its registry to date, he said.

There are a lot of reasons why many Canadian businesses favour a .ca domain name according to CIRA. One them, Austin said, is that surveys indicate that more than 60 per cent of Canadian online shoppers prefer buying from an online store that with a .ca address.

Jeftovic also said the .ca space has less domain name squatters. “The .com is super saturated now and there are simply too many domain name squatters there.”

This was something that Matt Wiebe, a St. Stephen, New Brunswick-based Web designer, realized when he registered for www.somadesign.ca three years ago.

Canadian registrants must give valid address information, and random audits are performed by CIRA 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 .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.

(With files from Brian Jackson)

Nestor Arellano is a Senior Writer at ITBusiness.ca. Follow him on Twitter, read his blog, and join the IT Business Facebook Page.

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