PDQ Library:  Domain Name Authorities

Canadian (.ca) domain names and Internic have very little connection. Internic (or Internic.net) was the name used by Network Solutions Inc. (netsol.com / networksolutions.com) in the US for it's registry, the database of all global Top Level Domains (gTLD's such as .com, net and .org) and registrar, the organization that interfaces between the registry and people or organizations wanting to register a domain name.

History of Domain Registration

A long time ago, Network Solutions was granted the right to be the only registry and the registrar of the big three domains by the US Dept. of Commerce. In the late 1990's after much complaint from non-US based parties about the monopolizing of the registrar and registry functions by a US corporation the Dept. of Commerce authorized the creation of a supposedly independant international body to oversee the registration of .com, .net and.org domain names. This organization is called ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers).


ICANN is the organization responsible for overseeing the administration and policy of the internet domain name systems and the root DNS servers. Also occurring around this time was the breakup of the monopoly powers over domain name registrar functions held by Network Solutions Inc. Network Solutions was allowed to remain the only registry while other companies such as Register.com were allowed ("accredited") to become registrars. Network Solutions was bought a couple of years ago by Verisign.

CIRA (.ca)

Now the .ca domain space is considered to be a country code Top Level Domain (ccTLD). ICANN retains some jurisdiction over the ccTLD's but it is up to individual countries to set their own policy for its ccTLD. The organization in charge of that for the .ca domain is called CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority). CIRA took over the .ca domain registration in November 2000. Originally the handling of the .ca domains was taken care of by John Demco, a professor at UBC. You could only obtain a top level .ca domain if yu were federally incorporated, had a registered trademark, or had multiple offices in multiple provinces. You could obtain provincial or municipal level .ca domains (.on.ca or.ottawa.on.ca) depending on your individual circumstances. That has been changed to allow anybody to register a top level .ca domain as long as you meet Canadian content restrictions.

CIRA acts as the .ca registry. It has accredited a number of registrars to act as the interface between the public and the registry. One of the registrars is webnames.ca who Pat is dealing with. They are the private organization that sprang up out of the UBC operation. Another accredited registrar is Internic.ca. Now Internic.ca has absolutely no affiliation with Internic.net or Network Solutions. It is a local company who happens to be one of the bigger .ca registrars in Canada.

A problem can occur when somebody tries to register the domain SAMPLE.BC.CA. Because SAMPLE.BC.CA was registered under the old system a grandfather clause prohibits anybody from registering SAMPLE.CA unless the administrative contact for SAMPLE.BC.CA gives their approval. CIRA won't recognize this approval via email unless it comes from the email address given in the domain record. If people register using an email address that is no longer valid, or an address they cannot "send" mail from so the mail header matches exactly, CIRA won't recognize the authorization. I imagine they will allow a notarized statement from the person whose name and address are listed.

To change registrars (move your domain to another service), requires the original registrar to approve the change and I believe there's a clause stating they cannot unreasonably withhold such approval. They must ensure the original owner of the domain gives approval in some official way that authenticates their identity. But if an authorized registrar only uses the email address as authentication they may very well withhold approval and argue that they are not doing so unreasonably. The procedure here may not be as easy as simply saying "I'm going to change registrars".

Thanks to Ian MacEachern, former Executive Director of the National Capital FreeNet for some of this information.

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