The Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) is a leading organization at the heart of Canada's internet. The organization is best known for managing the .CA internet domain but does much more to strengthen the Internet and build connections in Canada and around the world. CIRA is a purpose-driven organization with a dynamic team dedicated to helping shape the internet.
CIRA was built on the shoulders of visionaries. Years before the internet became a dominant force in our lives, a small group of volunteers foresaw that domain names would be essential guideposts in navigating the web. They saw that Canada needed its own address.
The effort was led by John Demco, former Computing Facilities Manager for the Department of Computer Science at the University of British Columbia (UBC). In 1987, he secured the registration of .CA by employing an exotic new tool called email to contact the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority. Amazingly, .CA was born before Canada was even connected with the nascent Internet that was forming in the USA.
Demco and his team oversaw the assigning and registration of .CA domains, until it became clear that the explosive growth in the internet demanded something bigger and more comprehensive than his dedicated volunteers could provide.
A broad array of voices from engineers, academics, government, and the interested public, came together to find the way forward. The outcome was a 1998 recommendation that resulted in the creation of a private, not-for-profit, member-based organization to be called the Canadian Internet Registration Authority. It was born with a clear mandate - to preserve the .CA domain as a Canadian resource operated and managed by Canadians for Canadians.
CIRA is neither an arm of government, nor a government agency, nor a charity. CIRA is a private, not-for-profit; member-driven organization that oversees, promotes, and protects an important resource on behalf of all Canadians.
Since then CIRA has seen two decades of astonishing growth (60,000 to 3 million registrants), and an ever-increasing influence toward building a better internet.
In the spirit of its collegial and progressive roots, today CIRA takes its commitment to promoting a thriving, healthy, corporate culture very seriously, in 2020, CIRA once again was named a Best Employer in Canada by Kincentric (formerly AON); and as a Top Employer in the National Capital Region by Canada’s Top Employers for the fifth year in a row. CIRA’s Human Resources team was also awarded the MaxSys Staffing & Consulting Award for Most Effective Recruitment Strategy and shortlisted for the TalentEgg Award for Best Employer Branding at the Canadian HR Awards.
Fiscal year 2020 marked the end of a strategic planning cycle for CIRA and the completion of the new five-year strategic plan. This plan set out to build on the core mission of delivering .CA to Canadians while transforming CIRA into a multi-service, multi-product organization. Core to these objectives were three strategic pillars: Innovate, Operate, and Donate. CIRA exceeded its objectives on all three fronts.
From an innovation perspective, CIRA succeeded in diversifying its services and revenue streams outside of .CA, building on CIRA’s unique infrastructure and cybersecurity strengths, including the launch of CIRA DNS Firewall in 2018, and Canadian Shield in 2020. The organization has also significantly upgraded and strengthened mission-critical underlying Domain Name Service (DNS) infrastructure, including the addition of many Anycast DNS nodes in locations around the world.
CIRA has also succeeded in its efforts to expand the reach of its services nationally and internationally by attracting new customers to its cybersecurity, DNS, and registry services. By the end of the 2020 fiscal year, CIRA’s customer base had expanded well beyond .CA channel partners and now includes domestic governments, domestic and international enterprise clients, and technology services partners.
CIRA Anycast DNS has signed more than 100 new organizations and global top-level domains (TLDs) to help keep their domains safe, stable, and secure. DNS Firewall is protecting more than 200 enterprise customers from malware, phishing, ransomware, and other cyberattacks, totalling 1.7 million individual users across Canada. Finally, the CIRA Registry Platform now provides registry management services such as Ireland’s .IE top-level domain and others.
From an operating standpoint, CIRA has made service excellence and safe, stable, and secure operations its highest priority. Innovation and investment in registry infrastructure have not only enabled the productizing registry services, but have enabled an unprecedented run on .CA domain names, due in part to the pandemic, but also to CIRA’s highly effective .CA “Domain Squad” marketing campaigns.
The final pillar of CIRA’s outgoing strategy was Donate, which focused on community investment efforts, and commitment to give back a portion of the proceeds of every .CA domain through grants to internet-related projects that benefit Canadians. There will continue to be four key funding priorities in this vein: community leadership, cybersecurity, digital literacy, and infrastructure.
From an international perspective, CIRA is very active, respected, and well-positioned. CIRA staff have played key leadership roles with ICANN, the Internet and Jurisdiction Forum, and the Internet Engineering Task Force. CIRA’s credibility abroad will be further enhanced by its recent ISO 27001 certification. Domestically, CIRA is a key player in the Canadian Internet Governance Forum, a vital partner to the Canadian Center for Cyber Security and collaborates with Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada on issues related to global Internet Governance.
Like all businesses, the road ahead for CIRA has both challenges and opportunities. Cybersecurity risks have skyrocketed, putting individuals, businesses, and organizations of all sizes at risk. While there has been an unprecedented demand for .CA domain names, there the ccTLD component of CIRA’s revenue will flatten over time.
The heart of CIRA’s new five-year strategic plan is to diversify the business and its revenue stream, grow new business lines and continue to pursue innovations that address customers’ pain and aspirations. The new strategy recognizes that while the domain industry is maturing, cybersecurity threats are growing, CIRA is in a strong position to leverage its world-class DNS infrastructure and expertise. Consequently, CIRA is making material changes to its organizational structured to capitalize on its opportunities, shifting from a traditional functional model to a more impactful business unit approach that imparts profit and loss responsibly on each business line.
The New Organization