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Robert Birkner

Slate: Member
Province: British Columbia

Candidate Statement

I have made Canada my home since moving to British Columbia from Germany in 2006. I take great pride in where I work and live with my family, and have immense appreciation for Canada. In my career, I have operated various domain registrars in both Germany and Canada. I have always been a champion of CIRA and the .CA ccTLD. I am passionate about the domain industry, and hope that I may use my expertise and unique insight of the domain market to help CIRA continue to succeed and thrive for years to come.

Looking back, I have been in the domain name industry for close to 22 years. I helped build one of the most successful registrars in Germany, then moved to Vancouver in 2006 to lead one of the first ICANN accredited registrars in Canada. Shortly thereafter, I helped launch the country code top-level-domain .ME prior to co-founding my own domain registrar, HEXONET, in BC and Germany. HEXONET was ultimately sold to CentralNic Group PLC in 2019. After a short break, I joined CentralNic as Head of the Wholesale Division. My role further expanded when I was asked to oversee and manage CentralNic’s Registry, Corporate Domain Management, and Wholesale Services divisions in 2022.

In each of my roles, my ability to understand macro market economics and skills to formulate financial and marketing strategies, as well as the capacity to adapt to domestic and global risk events, have helped the ventures I led succeed. I am confident that my deep understanding of how registrars operate will help CIRA best succeed through partnerships.

I am a strong advocate that every Canadian business should prioritize securing its own .CA Domain. To me, not only is this essential for brand identity, but also symbolizes the significance of being Canadian. Nevertheless, like many domain name registries, CIRA – Canada’s Internet, will likely face challenging times as we look towards the next round of new TLDs. The domain name market is shifting and ever evolving as more new TLDs emerge. Abuse is on the rise and regulation is ever increasing. As someone who has experienced much of these changes firsthand, I know I can contribute to the goals and aspirations of CIRA in both the domestic and global markets.

Lastly, I believe my network of relationships to key industry players, both large and small, and the experience of working across different countries, leading global teams can bring distinct perspectives and valuable hand-on expertise to the CIRA board.

Today, there is no country I would rather call home than Canada. To be able to support CIRA with my expertise in the domain industry is a meaningful way for me to contribute to my chosen home in an industry I love.

Mandatory Questions

1. Explain from your perspective what CIRA does and why it matters.

CIRA currently has four areas of focus:

1. CIRA is the .CA registry operator with the mandate to manage the .CA Country Code Top-level-Domain (ccTLD) as a public resource for the benefit of Canadians. In addition to managing the .CA, CIRA also manages the DNS infrastructure which ensures users can use their .CA domain securely and in a trusted manner. Allowing Canadians to register and manage their .CA digital assets in real-time 24×7 is a source of pride and is crucial to the Canadian economy.

2. In the area of Cybersecurity, CIRA is responsible for ensuring a safe and secure Internet by providing services for organizations and individuals such as cybersecurity awareness training and D-Zone Anycast DNS to strengthen network performance and resilience. I believe this is an area that will need to be expanded and enhanced in the years to come as cybercrime continues to become more sophisticated and further bolstered by artificial intelligence.

3. The third area, and one of growth, is the area of offering registry technology services to other country code and/or other generic TLDs. CIRA is a top-notch technology organization with innovative software solutions made by Canadians for Canadians. It should be proud to service other TLDs worldwide. ICANN is already talking about a further round of TLDs and CIRA needs to be prepared, and in the market to support this.

4. The above three areas are all revenue generating while the last one, Net Good by CIRA, is about giving back. Giving back to Canadians. This is where CIRA gets to give back to the community. Be it through Policy Engagement (voice of Canadians), Online Safety or Infrastructure.

2. Why do you want to be on CIRA’s Board of Directors? In responding, please indicate how you would contribute as a CIRA Board Member and what specific skills and experience you bring that makes you a qualified candidate.

I believe my expertise in growing and operating profitable registrars for more than 20 years will benefit CIRA and help contribute to the board. I am a strong believer in integrity, honesty and accountability which I believe aligns with the values of CIRA.

As a board member, I hope to work with the CIRA team to ensure .CA upholds its mission to make .CA accessible to all who are eligible, while ensuring a stable and secure infrastructure. In addition, CIRA needs to continue to drive and enhance cybersecurity products to the benefit of Canadians as well as Third-Party registries.

Having an eye for opportunity, revenue, and gross profit is extremely important to ensure the organization has adequate funds to invest in the Net Good by CIRA initiatives, and have a Canadian voice on the Internet.

I offer a unique perspective stemming from my experience in establishing, expanding, and managing successful registrars across various global markets, all while overseeing international teams, including through the complexities of the pandemic. Having worked in a major registry and organization like CentralNic, has allowed me to gain additional global perspective which will contribute to the oversight role if I am elected as a director at CIRA. In addition, I believe my skill set and ability to challenge the status quo and empower others will be a valuable asset to CIRA.

3. What do you think are the top 3 challenges and opportunities facing CIRA in the next 3 to 5 years? What approach would you take to address these issues?

#1 – Continued growth of .CA Domains
The domain industry as a whole saw a collective lift in domain registrations as a result of COVID lockdown triggered surge in online activities and digital transformation. Fast forward to 2023, as the world eagerly moves on, growth in domain registrations has slowed down significantly. It is imperative that CIRA develops counter-measures to reduce the decline in .CA volume and move towards enhanced growth while continuing to invest in infrastructure and stability of the most valuable asset of CIRA – .CA.

#2 – Registry Backend-Services
ICANN has greenlit the next round of new gTLDs to be launched, potentially, as early as 2026. With technology infrastructure already in place, CIRA is well positioned to continue to engage with other ccTLDs and new gTLDs worldwide to win registry technology provider businesses. As the domain industry continues to evolve so will various TLD business models. CIRA will need to adapt to the market and the demands of TLDs in order to stay competitive in backend registry services. I think much work will need to be done in this area ahead of time to meet upcoming and existing opportunities.

#3 – Evolving Policy
With more TLDs, more domains, and more people connecting online comes greater threat and cybercrime. Additional policy will need to be introduced to counter possible threats and abuse. It is imperative that CIRA carefully considers new policy adoption and, more importantly, voice its position within the realm of DNS abuse. Implementing policies that do not disrupt the current supply chain while protecting .CA users is of utmost importance and requires excellent communication with the current distribution channel – the accredited registrars.

There will surely be many more areas of challenge and opportunity for CIRA on the horizon. It is up to the board to carefully select which challenges and opportunities to focus and act on, as well as discuss the various different perspectives and approaches to these.

View Robert Birkner’s CV