.ca is the Internet country code top-level domain (ccTLD) for Canada. The domain name registry that operates it is the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA). Registrants of .ca domains must meet the Canadian Presence Requirements as defined by the registry. Examples of valid entities include:
- a Canadian citizen of the age of majority
- a permanent resident of Canada
- a legally recognized Canadian organization
- an Inuit, First Nation, M tis or other people indigenous to Canada
- an Indian Band as defined in the Indian Act of Canada
- a foreign resident of Canada that holds a registered Canadian trademark
- an executor, administrator or other legal representative of a person or organization that meets the requirements
- a division of the government
- Elizabeth II in her capacity as head of state of Canada
Registrants can register domains at the second level (e.g. example.ca). Third level registrations in one of the geographic third-level domains defined by the registry (e.g. example.ab.ca) were discontinued on October 12, 2010, but existing third-level domain names will continue to be supported.
The domain name was originally allocated by Jon Postel, operator of Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), to John Demco of the University of British Columbia (UBC) in 1988. The first .ca domain was registered by the University of Prince Edward Island in January 1988.
In 1997, at the Canadian annual Internet conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the Canadian Internet community, with a view to liberalize registration procedures and substantially improve turnaround times, decided to undertake reform of the .ca Registry.
The Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) is a non-profit Canadian corporation that is responsible for operating the .ca Internet country code Top Level Domain (ccTLD) today. It assumed operation of the .ca ccTLD on December 1, 2000 from UBC. On April 15, 2008, CIRA registered its one millionth .ca Internet domain name.
Any .ca registration has to be ordered via a certified registrar.
Third-level (provincial) and fourth-level (municipal) domains
UBC's registry operations once favoured fourth-level names (such as city.toronto.on.ca) for purely local entities or third-level names for entities operating solely within one province. Federally incorporated companies could have a .ca domain, while provincially incorporated companies required the letters of their province, like .mb.ca. Only an entity with presence in two or more provinces was typically registered directly under .ca; this complex structure (and the long delays in getting .ca registration) caused many Canadian entities to favour the .com, .org and .net registrations, despite the then-higher cost.
Currently, any of the above listed parties can register a domain with a name of their choosing followed directly by .ca. CIRA stopped accepting new registrations for third-level domains on October 12, 2010 citing complexity and the low number of new third domain registration as the reason for the change. As a result, the following domains at the third-level are no longer available for registration:
.bc.ca British Columbia
.nb.ca New Brunswick
.nf.ca Newfoundland (replaced by .nl.ca)
.nl.ca Newfoundland and Labrador
.ns.ca Nova Scotia
.nt.ca Northwest Territories
.pe.ca Prince Edward Island
The second-level domain name '.gc.ca' (Government of Canada) is commonly mistaken as one of the regional domains under which CIRA will allow Government of Canada registrations. gc.ca is actually a standard domain like all other .ca domain names. CIRA does not register domain names under .gc.ca directly.
The .mil.ca second-level domain name is also a standard domain and is registered to the Department of National Defence (DND). The .mil.ca suffix is used internally by DND on its intranet, the Defence Information Network (DIN) or Defence Wide Area Network (DWAN), to distinguish intranet-only websites.
In preparation for the implementation of internationalized domain names (IDN), domain names that begin with the four characters xn-- are not available for registration.
Names which match the name of an existing generic top-level domain, such as com.ca, or the Canadian top level country code .ca, are reserved and therefore not available for new registrations. Certain expletives are not accepted as names. Municipal names of individual cities and localities within Canada are also reserved nationwide; all of these names are also reserved both at second and third level. However, entities with existing registrations (such as St. Lawrence College's sl.on.ca) are able to retain them. There are a handful of existing .ca registered names as short as two characters in length, but these tend to be rare as many two-letter combinations match the names of existing country-code TLDs. A notable exception includes the frequently accessed website of the Canadian Governor General at gg.ca.
Names which exist at any of the levels (.ca or an individual province or territory) are blocked in their availability elsewhere in the .ca hierarchy. Registration, if it can be done at all, requires manual intervention by the prospective registrar and the permission of all existing registrant(s) must be obtained by CIRA. For instance, if the province of New Brunswick were to want to register "gouv.nb.ca", CIRA's normal automated WHOIS and registration tools would simply return the following error:
The domain name provided conflicts with at least one other registered domain name (e.g. xyz.ca conflicts with xyz.on.ca). Registering this domain name requires permission from the Registrant(s) that already holds the domain name(s): gouv.on.ca, gouv.pe.ca, gouv.qc.ca. Contact CIRA for more information.
Since Ontario, PEI and Quebec already use "gouv" on their provincial second-level domains for the French-language versions of their government websites, this domain is unavailable through the normal registration process. However, with the agreement of these three parties New Brunswick would indeed be able to register and use gouv.nb.ca.
After a thirty-day redemption period, intended to provide the original registrant one final chance to reclaim a suspended name, the expired names are assigned a to-be-released (TBR) status. These names are made available through a weekly auction process, in which lists of available names are posted online and advance bids are placed by prospective registrants through the various .ca registrars.
Domains which receive no bids are then released and made openly available for new registrations.
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