.CA Domains: A Guide to the Canadian Internet

.CA Domains: A Guide to the Canadian Internet

Share this article
By January 29, 2018 29 janvier 2018

As the second largest country on the planet, Canada is not too difficult to find on a map. But what about finding information about Canadians, Canadian businesses, or Canadian interests online?

The .CA domain extension was created to provide just that! Not to be confused with Chartered Accounts (C.A.), the state of California (CA) or the Calcium element (Ca), .CA is Canada's country code Top Level Domain (ccTLD). Read on to learn all about the .CA universe!

Registries, Registrars and Registrants

A little bit about the domain industry as a whole.

Registries are the governing bodies that control, maintain and set the price for TLDs like .COM, .NET, .ORG or .CA. The .CA registry is the Canadian Internet Registration Agency, most commonly referred to as CIRA.

Registrars are accredited companies (like Web Hosting Canada) that are responsible for registering and managing the domains on behalf of the client.

Registrants are those individuals who register and own a domain name for the duration of its registration.

A Brief History of the Official Canadian Domain Extension

  • 1988 – the first .CA domain was created for the University of Prince Edward Island. Yet, the registry was first created by volunteers at the University of British Columbia a year earlier.
  • 2000 – CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority) becomes the official Registry of .CA and remains so to this day.
  • 2008 – 1,000,000 registered .CA domain names.
  • 2012 – .CA celebrates its 25-year anniversary.
  • 2014 – CIRA creates the Community Investment Program (CIP), designed to provide grants to innovative community projects in Canada.
  • 2016 – 2,500,000 registered .CA domain names.

How to Register a Domain Name in Canada, and Who Can Do It?

Registering a .CA is easy! You pick a registrar (like WHC), search for domain availability and then register it once you’ve found a great, available domain name.

You will then be able to connect your new domain with services such as websites, emails, hosting, and more!

To be able to register a .CA domain as an individual, you must be either a Canadian citizen, permanent resident, Inuit, First Nations or Metis. A company or corporation may register a domain if they are in Canada, have a registered trademark in Canada, do business in Canada or have a Canadian trustee.

An extra bonus with .CA over most other domain types is that if you register your domain as an individual, you receive automatic privacy protection, at no extra charge. This effectively protects you against spam, telemarketers, and identify theft.

How to Transfer a .CA Domain Name?

Transferring your .CA domain name to another registrar can be useful if you would like to bring all your domains under a single roof (easier management), or simply to save costs (with WHC, clients save on average 25% compared to most other domain registrars). Transferring domain names does not affect where your website is hosted (although you may wish to transfer that as well), and will add one year to a domain’s existing expiration date, which is practical if your domain expires several years from now (you don’t lose the time you’ve already paid for!).

Transferring a .CA domain to another registrar is also easy (and considerably simpler compared to other domain types). It costs less than a standard renewal, yet includes a full one year renewal in the process!

With WHC, you can initiate the process from the Domain name transfer page. Just enter the domain(s) you wish to transfer, and complete your order.

Once the order has been made, you will need to complete certain steps:

Unlock your domain with the losing registrar – It is common practice for a registrar to place a lock on a domain name as a security measure to prevent unauthorized transfers, so you'll want to remove this lock. Most providers offer mechanisms to allow you to manage your domain lock through their client portals. If you can’t find this option, please contact your registrar and request that they manually unlock the domain for you.

Obtain the Transfer Key – Sometimes referred to as the EPP code or authorization code, the transfer key is a password needed to transfer your domain to another provider. Most providers allow clients to request this code, either by displaying it in their client portal or by sending it to their email; however, you may need to contact them if they are unable to provide you with this code. Once obtained, give the code to the new registrar to finalize the process.

Ensure Domain is at least 60 days old – All domains are restricted to 60 day ‘housing’ periods when they are first purchased or transferred. This is a safety protocol that cannot be overwritten, so if you’ve recently registered or transferred a domain, simply wait until the 61st day before initiating your domain transfer. You can still host your website with your new provider in the meanwhile by updating your nameservers.

With the domain unlocked and the transfer key provided, the migration of your .CA domain should complete within hours. .CA domains generally transfer much faster than their .COM counterparts, which can take up to 5 days to transfer to a new provider.

If you would like to know about transferring a website along with a domain name, then have a look at this knowledgebase article.

.CA Domain Naming Restrictions

Canada is known for being welcoming and openminded, but there are some things we will not allow when it comes to our domain names.

When figuring out your perfect .CA domain name, you can use letters a through z (pronounced ‘zed’ ), numbers 0 through 9, hyphens, and accented characters: é, ë, ê, è, â, à, æ, ô, œ, ù, û, ü, ç, î, ï, and ÿ.

When you register a .CA domain, CIRA will also reserve all accented variations of that same domain name so only you can register them (if needed). So, for example, by registering hellomontreal.ca no one else will be able to register hellomontréal.ca without your permission.

In terms of length, the domain will need to have to have a minimum of 2 characters and a maximum of 63. Though it should be noted that most (if not all) 2 and 3 character .CA domains are already registered.

Provincial / Third Level .CA Domain Names

Prior to 2012, the following provincial domain name endings (also known as third level domain) were available:

  • .AB.CA / Alberta
  • .BC.CA / British Columbia
  • .MB.CA / Manitoba
  • .NB.CA / New Brunswick
  • .nf.ca / Newfoundland
  • .ni.ca / Newfoundland and Labrador
  • .ns.ca / Nova Scotia
  • .nt.ca / Northwest Territories
  • .nu.ca / Nunavut
  • .on.ca / Ontario
  • .pe.ca / Prince Edward Island
  • .qc.ca / Quebec
  • .sk.ca / Saskatchewan
  • .yk.ca / Yukon

Since October 2012, to simplify the .CA namespace, provincial third-level .ca domains can no longer be registered. If you had already registered a third level .ca domain prior to that date, you can still renew it or transfer it to Web Hosting Canada.

In 2014, .QUEBEC made its appearance as an alternative to .qc.ca and is currently an active domain option for anyone operating in, or doing business with, Quebec.

Why Choose a .CA Domain?

Connect with Canadians – As 77% of Canadians prefer buying from Canadian businesses, having a .CA improves website visibility and traffic among Canadian consumers.

Better Availability – There are far fewer .CA domains currently registered than .COMs, offering greater naming options for an internet entrepreneur.

Invest in Canada – A portion of every registration goes to CIRA’s Community Investment Program (CIP). Thus, buying a .CA leads to a better Canada.

Free Privacy – Protects your identity and stop spam and telemarketing in its track. .CA is one of the only domain types that includes this protection for free for individuals.

Go Canada!

It may just be two little letters, but they are our two little letters. So, the question is, “What are you going to say with your .CA?”.

Happy Hosting,

The Team at WHC



About the author: Marc Pilon

Marc is the SEO Copywriter, Research Analyst, Marketer and Boardgame Wizard at WHC. He focuses on everything from developing new online growth strategies, content creation, technical SEO, and outreach within the community.

See all articles from this author Interested in writing for Web Hosting Canada?
Web Hosting Canada manages fast and reliable online infrastructure with 24/7 support. Learn more about WHC