Today Canada celebrates the 20th Anniversary of the .CA domain, marking the official delegation of .CA to John Demco from Jon Postel of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). And as Canadians go about reading their daily paper online or checking their local weather or “Google” whatever it is they are looking for, they will likely be going to a .CA website.
For me, .CA has a greater significance and great memories because one of my business partners, John Demco, actually started .CA back in 1987. At that time, I was in high school and still using an electric typewriter for most things. John on the other hand, a true innovator and visionary, had the amazing foresight to preserve a unique online identity for all Canadians for the future. All this at a time when there wasn’t even a World Wide Web (the web was invented in 1989). So besides being instrumental in setting up one of Canada’s first Internet connections in 1988, a major achievement in its own right, John voluntarily managed the registration, updates and changes of all .CA domains for 13 years while charging no fee for his services.
When I met John over 7 years ago, about 100,000 .CA domains had already been registered by him and he was processing registration or update requests at the rate of about 5000 per month. He did all this on top of his full time job as the Facilities Manager of the Computer Science Department at the University of British Columbia. This meant sacrificing his personal time (all evenings and weekends) to ensure the longevity of the Canadian domain.
In 2000, UBC transferred authority for administering the .CA domain to the newly formed Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA). John, Steve, Matt and I worked countless hours managing the transition to CIRA and at the same time building Webnames.ca into what it is today. I remember the days when we were hiring 1 or 2 people a week (we were up to about 30 people in 4 months), people sleeping in sleeping bags in the office, working all day and night, pizza boxes and pop cans strewn around. I also remember the days of explaining the old rules to people prior to the transfer to CIRA (eg. yourdomain.vancouver.bc.ca for individuals; yourdomain.bc.ca for corporations provincially incorporated; yourdomain.ca reserved for corporations with presence in more than one province/territory or corporations federally incorporated). I remember the complications of upgrading domains from the municipal level or provincial level to the second level (yourdomain.ca) especially where there were conflicting registrations in different municipalities and provinces and everyone wanted to upgrade. I remember working closely with CIRA ironing out systems issues and bugs.
Some of our most significant memories include the feeling of excitement and pride we had seeing Canadian companies using their .CA domain on a TV commercial, print ad or on a billboard. I also remember the staff at the time giving John, the “Godfather of .CA” as he became to be known, a “Standing O” (standing ovation) each time he entered the room and John blushing and bowing his head everytime, being the humble, modest individual that he is.
Today, over 830,000 .CA domains are registered to Canadian individuals and companies who proudly show the world that they are Canadian. About 90 certified registrars (including Webnames.ca) exist plus many more resellers who together generate multi-millions of dollars in revenue annually, employ thousands of people and contributes to the Canadian economy. .CA is also the 13th most popular country code top level domain in the world, a significant achievement given our small population and the fact that .CA continues to be restricted to those who meet Canadian Presence Requirements (a policy I happen to support even though for commercial purposes, Registrars including Webnames.ca would make a lot more money by registering more domains if .CA were opened up to the world like China’s .CN domain for instance).
John’s integrity and the fact he managed the .CA Registry as a volunteer for so many years bring us back to a time when the Internet was about sharing information, not about making money. And while Webnames.ca is a business, I can say with pride that we continue to run our business upholding the integrity, honesty and passion for our work because we remember where we came from.
John Demco, Director Webnames.ca, Founder of .CA domain