The History of .ca
the life story of the domain that could.
The meteoric rise
of the .ca registry
In a little over two decades, Canada’s domain name
registry has developed from a small academic service
run by volunteers into a mature, national organization
managing a critical resource on behalf of all Canadians.
In the process, it has emerged as a world leader in the
Internet domain space.
• The .CA registry was created in 1987 by
volunteers at the University of British Columbia
(UBC) in Vancouver.
• The first .CA domain name,, was
registered in January 1988.
• Since then, .CA domain name usage has grown by
over 20% per year.
• The registry was officially transferred to the
Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) on
December 1, 2000.
• In April 2008, CIRA registered its one millionth
.CA domain.
1987–2000: The volunteer years
When the .CA registry began, the Canadian
Internet community was small. Individuals could not
register domain names, and most .CA domains were
used by government and academic communities.
John Demco—with the help of like-minded volunteers—
managed Canada’s registry on his own time. During the
next 13 years, volunteers registered more than 100,000
domain names.
By 1997, Internet activity had increased dramatically.
At its annual Internet conference that year, the
Canadian Internet community decided to reform the .CA
registry, to liberalize registration procedures and improve
turnaround times. The conference created the Canadian
Domain Names Consultative Committee, which
recommended that a not-for-profit, private-sector
corporation be established to run the .CA registry.
The Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA)
was incorporated in December 1998. Over the next
two years, CIRA laid the foundation for taking over the
registry—hiring permanent staff, developing policies and
procedures, and building the system to house the
growing registry.
2000–2009: CIRAtakes charge
By November 8, 2000, when CIRA’s new rules for the
.CA registry took effect, UBC had registered over
60,000 .CA domain names. During the “sunrise” period—
between November 8 and December 1, when UBC
officially handed over the registry—80,000 new .CA
domain names were registered using the CIRA rules.
By December 1, 2000, there were over 140,000
active .CA domain name registrations.
CIRA officially opened its offices in Ottawa, Ontario, on
May 2, 2001. By April 2008, CIRA celebrated the one
millionth .CA domain.
Since its incorporation, CIRA has taken on policy and
governance issues that affect the Internet in Canada and
around the world. For instance, one of its core
policies reserves the names of municipalities for
municipal use. This policy is helping Canadian cities to
develop online services and resources for their citizens.
As an active participant in the Internet Corporation for
Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), CIRA is building
Canada’s reputation and expanding its role in the
governance of the Internet.
In June 2003, CIRA hosted an ICANN Public Meeting in
Montreal and in 2005 hosted an event during ICANN’s
Annual General Meeting in Vancouver.
In June 2009, CIRA President and Chief Executive Officer
Byron Holland took on an international role as Vice-Chair
of the Country Code Names Supporting Organisation
(ccNSO) for a 12-month period; in October, Chief
Operating Officer Norm Ritchie was appointed Chair of
the Incident Response Working Group of ccNSO.