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Start: Mark Evans

Canadian, eh? Embrace .ca Add to ...

A few months ago, I received a call from a client disappointed about not being able to get a particular .com domain name for a new blog being created by his company.

After a quick check on the Web, I told him the .ca domain name was available. The response was a combination of surprise and delight because it was an option the client had not considered.

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This kind of reaction to .ca (Canada's official domain on the Internet) has become less frequent over the last couple of years for a few reasons.

First, the profile of the "dot-ca" brand has increased significantly as the Canadian Internet Registration Authority, the non-profit organization that manages the .ca domain, puts more of an emphasis on making people aware of its value, and the fact there are viable options to the popular .com domain.

There is also the reality that getting a .com domain for a website has become more challenging since most names have been taken. That explains why you see so many companies with domain names they have made up.

At the same time, the stature of the .ca domain system has improved in a major way. For a growing number of companies, it is no longer seen as a second choice after they have failed to get a .com name. For companies that want to embrace the fact they are Canadian, having a .ca name is a straightforward way to declare it on the Web.

This is particularly important for smaller businesses that want to leverage their Canadian-ness, and who may not have the finances to purchase a .com name owned by someone else.

CIRA president and chief executive officer Byron Holland said it also helps that getting a .ca domain is much easier than it used to be, which explains why there are now 1.6 million registered .ca names.

"Part of the challenge in the early days was the .ca domain was really reserved for corporations," he said during a recent interview. "When it came to individuals, the burden of proof was vigorous and also old school. You had to fax in a photocopy of your passport. Part of what we have done in the last three years is really reduce the level of bureaucracy to get a .ca."

The challenge now, he said, is to convince more registrars, who sell domain names, to offer the .ca name and, at the same time, do a better job of getting consumers to understand the real value proposition.

Mr. Holland said a solid foundation has been established over the past few years that sets the stage for CIRA to enhance the brand, explain the .ca story and be a more active member of the Web community within Canada and globally.

On CIRA's agenda are greater education about the role the organization plays and putting the focus on important issues that need to be thrust into the spotlight to ensure the Internet's growth and health.

A key part of CIRA's education efforts was the first Canadian Internet Forum, being held today in Ottawa. Mr. Holland said the forum was aimed at making people more aware of important issues such as Internet security and to get them more involved.

"We know the Internet is important but we know it doesn't just happen,someone runs it, and we also need Canadians to get involved and express their views," he said. "We want to stimulate debate and have people take leadership."

Special to The Globe and Mail

Mark Evans is a principal with ME Consulting , a content and social media strategic and tactical consultancy that creates and delivers 'stories' for companies looking to capture the attention of customers, bloggers, the media, business partners, employees and investors. Mark has worked with three start-ups - Blanketware, b5Media and PlanetEye - so he understands how they operate and what they need to do to be successful. He was a technology reporter for more than a decade with The Globe and Mail, Bloomberg News and the Financial Post. Mark is also one of the co-organizers of the mesh, meshUniversity and meshmarketing conferences.

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