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CIRA .ca Domain Suspensions

June 12, 2004

CIRA’s on a witch hunt, and the first casualties are the wave of multiple suspended .ca domains dropping off the internet this weekend.

From the inception of the .ca TLD in 1993 to the transfer of control to CIRA in 2000, the .ca registry was run by the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Owning a .ca has always meant adhering to strict Canadian presence requirements, but the rules have relaxed over time. During UBC administration an individual or company was required to maintain a physical presence in the country. Subdomain use was liberal and an individual had little chance of registering a higher-level domain than

When the Canadian Internet Registration Authority took over the regional segregation was dropped, although physical presence requirements remained. But it has become apparent non-Canadian residents were able to skirt around this stipulation, and CIRA started pulling the plug on their sites this weekend.

Californian Greg Storey was contacted on May 25th about his domain, CIRA wished to verify his registrant information, and threatened suspension if he didn’t comply within 5 business days. Further, they informed him they would be blocking any access to his domain during the verification process:

Please note that during the RIV process, CIRA is restricting your Registrant profile and all domains associated with it, this includes Registrar transfers, Registrant transfers and administrative contact changes etc. Unless the Registrant is unable to respond satisfactorily to CIRA’s RIV request, the restrictions will be removed upon completion of the RIV process.

Because Storey wasn’t able to meet the Canadian presence requirement, CIRA followed up with notice of suspension on June 11th, and by June 12th had disappeared from the web. And he’s not alone; notable typography site has gone dark, and the list of suspended domains is growing daily.

While it was obvious all along that non-Canadians shouldn’t own .ca domains, CIRA’s handling leaves a lot to be desired. A domain switch is not an easy process; bookmarks break, traffic falls, and server configuration takes time. Instead of wantonly closing down sites that slipped through the cracks, they could have instead extended a grace period to the registrants and allowed time for a proper domain transfer. CIRA allowed these registrations to happen; silencing resources that others have come to enjoy and rely on isn’t the proper way to handle the situation.

Note — Airbag has since moved to, so update your bookmarks. Feel free to use comments on this article as a lost and found to hook up missing .ca domains with their new address.

Reader Comments

June 12, 10h is back online, thanks to Stephen’s Great Aunt in Alberta.

June 13, 01h

Why should only Canadians be able to get .ca domains? I’ve long had an interest in getting

June 13, 02h

I understand what CIRA is trying to do, but they should have done it differently.

Comparing .com to .ca is different though, look how hard it is to get a .us domain if you’re Canadian? or a or

I don’t really understand why you’d want them anyway unless you’re from that country. I hate it when one company registers their name in every TLD there is…

Amanda says:
June 13, 02h

When you’re so saturated with a dominant culture, it’s easy to see why they want to protect it - its just a terrible way to go about it.

One of the best and the worst things about New Zealand is that anyone can get a .nz. I love seeing the .nz in an international forum - it’s so disappointing though when it’s actually not someone from “downunder”.

Herb Nutwell says:
June 13, 03h

<i>CIRA’s handling leaves a lot to be desired…<i>

Excuse me? If registrants chose to ignore the policy when they knowingly misregistered their .ca domain, they deserve to be dark.

sheesh, I can’t believe this is an issue.

June 13, 04h

Why should only Canadians be able to get .ca domains?

Here in Canada, there’s quite a bit of concern over Canada losing its identity and independence. A huge amount of our media is imported from the U.S.

Also, a strong Canadian identity is essential to Canadian unity. (For those who weren’t aware, there’s a constant threat of separation in Quebec, and there’s concern about Western Canada, too.)

That’s the truncated abridged version.

Ian Firth says:
June 13, 05h

I think it’s a disgrace that people abuse TLDs in the fashion they do. If you have to resort to a non-standard TLD, get more creative and pick another name for your site (like Even though sites like appear to be clever, they are just abusing the system (of course the system went away when it was deregulated).

I also dislike the fact that certain countries (like the Cocos .cc) have given up their TLDs just to profit.

June 13, 06h

Ah - so we’re all pretending that there’s some deep meaning to the arbitrary strings of letters that make up the TLDs and that there’s a real feeling of community between folks that share the same TLD. I’ll pretend that somehow I gain a strong sense of identity from my .com homepage. I can identify with my neighbors that I share the com namespace with: Yahoo, the New York Times, Halliburton. Oh wait…

Well, I guess there is one good thing to come out of all of this controversy: Greg and Dave will be united by the .com bond. Tell me again why Mezzoblue isn’t a .ca domain? What sort of company is Mezzoblue, exactly?

June 13, 07h

Perhaps the real problem was not enforcing the Canadian presence requirement to begin with – after the registration process loosened in various respects, I mean. The laxity led folks to believe their faking was merely fibbing, and we know that fibbing is okay. So I have some sympathy with the beached people, but not a whole lot.

June 13, 07h

My god… Total Suspended/Expiring Domains: 8774…

That’s a LOT!


Bogie says:
June 14, 03h

Requiring residence is not an unusual requirement for country specific top level domains. Many of the domain registries in Europe require you to have lived in said country for 6 months before you can register. In France, you have to set up a company (incorporated or public) and have a physical office open for business before you can apply for a .fr domain name.

I agree with the comments about the grace period before deleting the domains from the registry. 5 days is a horrifically short length of time to move a web-site across domains. Informing your readers of a change of address can take months. 5 days will loose useful web-sites like Airbag a lot of readers, and for businesses, a lot of customers.

Greg says:
June 14, 06h

In my defense, I did not use a loophole. I went to the first Canadian registrar I found ( and tried to get a domain. I was surprised it went through, but it didn’t seem too odd as there are so many countries that allow for foriegn registration.

And I fail to see how registering a domain can be compared to spreading spam or viruses. That’s just stupid.

Dave S. says:
June 14, 06h

“I pretty much agree that if someone has used a loophole to get hold of something they know they shouldn’t really be able to get, then they don’t deserve a warning.”

Though I’m a Canadian citizen, support the residency requirements and generally agree with CIRA’s decision, I don’t agree with any sentiment that these sites should go dark simply because the owner found a loophole. I am not someone who would stand to lose a domain over this (I don’t even own any .ca’s anymore) but speaking as a user of the sites that do, it disappoints me to see such a quick action on CIRA’s part after years of dormancy. A grace period is reasonable in these circumstances.

“Tell me again why Mezzoblue isn’t a .ca domain”

Because the more pedestrian .com scores over .ca in two important ways; first, because it was still actually available as a .com (the benefits of making up words). Second, because it was slightly cheaper. All my properties probably should have a .ca redirect at the very least, but it hardly strikes me as worthwhile to spend the money on what results to a purist debate.

Dave L says:
June 14, 07h

One similarity between this issue and your last post (Everything looks like a blog) is access to our Internet. Scroll wheels on computer mice are vertical, not horizontal, so no one likes to scroll sideways (and you can just hit the space bar to scroll down). Dominant browsers append a “.com” domain when none is entered. But trying to get people to embrace the domain naming convention is similar to moving people away from just the default browser.

June 14, 08h

That’s actually pretty scary that somebody thought .ca was California, when you think about it.

Interesting that you’ve had problems with .ca domains. Here in southwestern Ontario, .ca’s actually seem more prevalent than .com’s. Perhaps the .ca thing has just taken a stronger hold here or something. That would make an interesting article.

Jim says:
June 14, 11h

Thanks for the post Dave. While I was looking at the very long list, I noticed that one of my domains is about to be suspended! And I’m a Canadian citizen.

I orginally noticed the CIRA crackdown while at Greg’s Airbag site, and one of the comments struck me as being kind of funny - one commenter thought that .ca was the TLD for the state of California.

And I also agree that .ca domains do not get as much attention as .com - having owned both, I recieve constant complaints that people cannot find my .ca sites. People tend to automatically add .com to the end of a domain - even though you tell them to use .ca!

Adrian says:
June 14, 12h

I pretty much agree that if someone has used a loophole to get hold of something they know they shouldn’t really be able to get, then they don’t deserve a warning.

If you go spamming Google for example, would you complain if you got a ban/penalty with no warning?

If you were to start sending viruses round the world, would you expect a warning before being arrested and charged?

I mean, if we have a system setup that allows someone to send viruses or spam search engines, then surely its not their fault for taking advantage of it.

I’m sure many people will now tell me that registering a .ca domain is wildly different to spamming or distributing viruses, but if someone does something they know they shouldn’t, do they really deserve a warning? Building a business on that kind of thing is perhaps not the best thing to do……

June 15, 04h

“it disappoints me to see such a quick action on CIRA’s part after years of dormancy. A grace period is reasonable in these circumstances.”

I can understand being annoyed as a user that a site you visit suddenly disappears. I would also conceed that where people do have a proper legitimate right to the domain, it is very unfair not to offer some kind of grace period. For that reason alone perhaps they should have offered a grace period to avoid penalising innocent people.

I don’t, though, have any sympathy for those who knowingly used a loophole, or CIRA’s laziness, to obtain a domain, and find their site has now been pulled.

I would imagine that CIRA could be caught by compensation claims if they suspend a legitimate domain without warning, and I would hope that they were pretty sure of falsley registered domains before taking that action.

Rich says:
June 15, 08h

The moral take on the loophole (“you shouldn’t have done it, so you deserve it”) might not hold water, but the insurance take might: when you enter into a contract with a certain set of requirements that you don’t meet – even going so far as to be *surprised* that your offer wasn’t refused given the terms, then you might not rely too heavily on the other party upholding the contract. Whether the terms were broken in good faith or bad, it comes down to banking on CIRA not noticing, which doesn’t strike me as particularly stable.

Entities with .ca domains who don’t meet residency requirements are taking a substantial risk in choosing those domains over those without requirements that they have trouble meeting; if not having to move domains years later is something one wants to insure against one might want to be risk-averse in choosing a TLD.

anonymouse says:
June 15, 08h

The funny thing about this, of course, is that Typographica IS owned by a Canadian (or rather, about 3 people minimum, one of whom is a Canadian citizen) - and CIRA has copies of his passport and drivers license apparently on file, and had them two years ago too - but they don’t believe the site is “Canadian” enough, I guess.

anonymous says:
June 15, 08h

Sorry - just to reiterate - I have been told by one of the many people involved with Typographica that the Canadian citizen who originally registered the domain in partnership with the Americans and others who founded the site was asked to send his Canadian Presence Requirement 2 years ago (or more? does anyone know?) when the site was first put up. And he did. And everything was fine - until now. But it was sent in a second time, valid IDs (2 of them) showing his regular permanent address in Canada.

I doubt that’s enough for CIRA, though; from other people who have lost their sites (many of whom are Canadian citizens living in Canada and elsewhere), CIRA wants specifically Canadian content. Maybe we should tell the Typographica people to write more about Canadian typefaces, maybe that would make CIRA happy.

June 19, 08h

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