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Dot-ca domain registry changes, 12 October 2010

11 October 2010 23:53:53 +0000

17 September 2010 (original posting date on NinerNet website)


In October, the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) will be making sweeping changes to their system for registering dot-ca domains. However, they have done almost nothing to communicate details about these coming changes to dot-ca domain holders and the Canadian public at large — i.e., potential dot-ca domain registrants. We got wind of these changes last week, but it took until this week for us to be able to extract the details below from CIRA after a flurry of emails and a phone call this week.

In the middle of all of that, CIRA did finally send an extremely vague email to dot-ca domain registrants. We received our copy on 10 September; the subject of the email was “Information Regarding the New .CA Registry”. This held about as much detail — i.e., almost none — as the press release on the CIRA website and the FAQ buried so deep you could be forgiven for missing it. There is another page on the CIRA website with slightly more detail, but the only reason we know about that is because the address was given to us over the phone earlier this week.

An opportunity

But in all of this complaining about the lack of communication from CIRA, there’s actually a potential fun side to consider. It’s worth reading (or skipping) to the end, because this is a time-limited opportunity to own a rather unique — and potentially amusing — piece of Canadian Internet history. For example, consider Or how about this odd domain?:

5 OCTOBER 2010: Vital update for registrants of existing third- and fourth-level dot-ca domains!

Further to our email of 17 September regarding the upcoming changes that the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) is making to the dot-ca domain system, we have some new news that really is vital for you to know if the following conditions all apply to your dot-ca domain:

  • You own a third-level dot-ca domain (e.g., or a fourth-level dot-ca domain (e.g.,, AND
  • The second level of your domain (e.g., is not registered, AND
  • Nobody else has your name registered at another provincial level (e.g., you own and someone else owns

This email is being sent only to those clients we know meet all of the above three criteria.

Contrary to what we were told by CIRA last month, if you do not register your domain at the second level (e.g., before 12 October, you will not be able to do so on or after 12 October. Your domain at the second level (e.g., will be indefinitely blocked. You will still have the use of your third- or fourth-level domain unless or until you let it expire. In fact, the only way, after 12 October, for you to register your domain at the second level will be to allow any other domains you have at the third and fourth level to expire. Even then, there is no mechanism in place that gives you first dibs on your domain at the second level, so if someone is quicker on their mouse than you at the moment your third- or fourth-level domain expires (a moment that cannot be predicted with any certainty or guarantee), they might get it before you and you will completely lose your rights to your name.

With the above new information in mind, please contact us immediately (or at the very least on or before Monday, 11 October) if you want to register your dot-ca domain at the second level before you lose that ability permanently. We’ll be following up this email with personal phone calls today and tomorrow to ensure that you’re fully aware of the situation.

But seriously …

But first the serious stuff. Unfortunately, the email from CIRA mentioned above leaves out some very important information that is nowhere to be found on the CIRA website. Even the important information that is available is buried, and it was only through a series of emails with CIRA (before they sent out the email on 10 September) and a twenty-minute phone call this week that we managed to extract the apparently top secret information below.

As of the date (see below for dates) of the overhaul of the dot-ca registry:

  • Third- and fourth-level dot-ca domains will no longer be allowed.
  • Domains will be automatically renewed.
  • Registrant profiles will cease to exist.

At the moment, despite our attempts to clarify the process of automatic renewal with CIRA, this aspect is still unclear. It should not mean that you are automatically charged for another year on your domain unless you opt out. Certainly, that’s not what it will mean if your dot-ca domain is registered with NinerNet, if we have any say in the matter. The last point on registrant profiles is actually a good thing; the old system of registrant profiles was a dog’s breakfast, to put it politely.

Third- and fourth-level domains?

The first point — on third- and fourth-level domains — is the one of interest to us, and will affect different people in different ways. The most important thing though is that, if you already own (or register before the cutover) a third- or fourth-level dot-ca domain, you will get to keep it. (Don’t ever let it expire though, or you will lose it forever.)

But what are third- and fourth-level domains anyway? Here are some examples:

  • Fourth-level domain:
  • Third-level domain:
  • Second-level domain:

This is how the coming changes will affect people:

  • In the future you will only be able to register, not or
  • Even if you already own and so have the right to register or before anyone else, you will no longer be able to register anything but, assuming it’s available.
  • If, due to grandfathering, you own and someone else owns, there will still be a block on registering
  • If you own and nobody else owns or (where XX is a provincial or territorial abbreviation), then you will still have a block on — i.e., nobody but you can register THIS IS NO LONGER THE CASE! Please see the update in the pink box at the top of the page.

When does this go into effect?

When does all of this take place? The new system officially goes into effect at 6:00 am Pacific time on Tuesday 12 October, and the dot-ca registry will be offline during the transition until 6:00 am Pacific time on Wednesday 13 October. (CIRA has decreed that there be no overlap period, so it better work right the first time!) However, there is a lead-in period of one week before 12 October during which there will be a moratorium on certain activities. (To be on the safe side, consider 4 October to be your deadline to all intents and purposes.) All of these are activities that require you to log into the CIRA website to confirm your choices — which is most things outside of changing the technical contact for your domain. If you have any concerns about your dot-ca domain and what you might want to do with it between now and the middle of October, please contact NinerNet support for details, or see the CIRA website for details.

There are two notable exceptions, as far as we have been able determine:

  • There will be no interruption of the registration of new domains.
  • If you want to register a “Conflicting Domain Name”, you must do so by 27 September. For example, you own and want to register, but someone already owns This is considered a “Conflicting Domain Name” and you cannot register without the express consent of the owner of Because you will not be able to register at all after 12 October, if you have any designs on this type of domain you must take action before 27 September.

Why register a third- or fourth-level domain?

But besides all of the above, the next few weeks are your last chance to own a third- or fourth-level dot-ca domain. Thousands of them exist. Here are some:

Besides simply wanting to own a domain, there’s a good reason to own them if you’re an organisation or business with distinct units in multiple provinces and territories. Consider the fictitious XYZ Corporation. The head office website and email would be on the domain, while the Yukon office would use the domain for their email and website. And so on. It sure beats and

Now for the fun stuff

Apart from the fact that third- and fourth-level dot-ca domains are going the way of the dodo bird, and so you might want to grab your own piece of Canadian Internet history while you can, how about having some fun with it? Consider domains like the following, with or without the hyphens:

  • Advertise where you live:
  • Advertise what you’re looking for and where:
  • Say something political:
  • Show how much of a sports fan you are:
  • Steal the prime minister’s identity:

I don’t know why I didn’t think of this years ago, but there’s nothing to stop you from getting your provinces and cities confused. In a slap-myself-on-the-forehead moment (I should have used hyphens so it would be easier to read), I registered Try it. It works! Think about these possibilities:

  • Heard the one about the Conservatives moving the capital to Alberta?:
  • More along the lines of being dazed and confused:

All of these and more are available (as of this writing) for registration.


Now you know more than most people about the extensive changes CIRA is planning to make to the dot-ca registry effective 12 October 2010. Of course, all of this is subject to the whims and rules of CIRA, so if and when they publish more detailed information you should defer to that.

If you have any questions or concerns, or need to register a new third- or fourth-level domain before it’s too late (or even a second-level dot-ca domain per the update at the top of this page), please contact NinerNet support.

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