CIRA was built on the shoulders of visionaries.
Years before the internet became a dominant force in our lives, a small group of volunteers foresaw that domain names would be essential guideposts in navigating the web. They saw that Canada needed its own address.
The effort was led by John Demco, former Computing Facilities Manager for the Department of Computer Science at the University of British Columbia (UBC). Before the internet was the internet, you needed to know the right person to call to register a domain.
In 1987, he secured the registration of .CA by employing an exotic new tool called email to contact the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, which was run by Jon Postel at the University of Southern California. .CA was born before Canada was even connected with the nascent internet that was forming in the USA.
For more than a decade, Demco and his team oversaw the assigning and registration of .CA domains, until it became clear that the explosive growth in the internet demanded something bigger and more comprehensive than his dedicated volunteers could provide.
The next stage in the .CA journey evolved much like the internet itself—through multistakeholder engagement, an inclusive, organic process with input from many players in the internet community, all coming together as equals.
The Canadian Domain Name Consultative Committee (CDNCC) coordinated the discussion, listening to a broad array of voices from civil society, engineers and academics. Government was part of the conversation too, but pointedly did not lead the initiative, leaving it to the internet community to find the way forward.
In 1998, the CDNCC recommended the creation of a private, not-for-profit, member-based organization to be called the Canadian Internet Registration Authority, with a clear mandate:
"CIRA will act to preserve the .CA domain as a Canadian resource operated and managed by Canadians for Canadians."
Aside from certifying its incorporation and holding a non-voting advisory seat on the board, the federal government was to play no direct oversight role. Nor would it fund CIRA.
The Assistant Deputy Minister of Industry, Michael Binder, emphasized the point when wrote a congratulatory letter to CIRA’s first Board Chair, Robert Hall, in 1999:
"We continue to encourage reliance on market forces and private sector leadership in the management of the .CA domain space."
And so it has been through two decades of astonishing growth and ever-increasing influence towards building a better internet.
When CIRA launched in November 2000, it managed 60,000 registrants. There are now 3 million .CA domains.
As part of its maturation, CIRA expanded into cybersecurity services through its D-Zone Firewall. It is a respected, influential voice in the international conversation on internet governance and standards. Within Canada it is working to build a better internet with millions of dollars in grants from its Community Investment Program.
CIRA is unique in Canada.
It is neither an arm of government, nor a government agency, nor a charity. CIRA is a private, not-for-profit; a member-driven organization that oversees, promotes and protects an important resource on behalf of all Canadians.
CIRA is the steward of .CA, Canada’s corner of the internet. We are the registry of .CA domains. But we’re also so much more. We foster and nurture the development of .CA as an essential public resource. We protect its integrity and security for the benefit of all .CA domain holders. And we are a leading voice across Canada and around the world for a better internet for all.
Our vision is one of a connected future where the internet empowers individuals to achieve their economic, social and cultural potential. Our goal is to ensure a trusted internet for Canadians.