Canada’s ccTLD had its best year ever in 2018, outgrowing its peers around the world, says David Fowler, Vice-President, Marketing and Communications for the Canadian Internet Registration Authority in today’s Domain Pulse Q&A. Fowler also addresses the importance of privacy and how, in 2019, “one of [CIRA’s] main objectives is to get .CA domain names into the hands of more Canadians”. The challenge for the industry is how “to find ways to innovate and reach new customers in a mature market” while in 2019 CIRA is working towards “ensuring that all Canadians have a safe and secure online experience.” New gTLDs add choice, Fowler notes, but they have a different business model to country code top level domains but feels “ccTLDs provide greater flexibility, stronger brand recognition, and a trust factor that makes them the best choice for their online identity.” Domain Pulse: What were the highlights, lowlights and challenges of 2018 in the domain name industry for you? David Fowler: The highlight of 2018 was having our best year ever for .CA domain names and outgrowing the market. We’re proud that .CA domain names grew by more than five per cent in a market that is experiencing flattening growth. The challenge for our entire industry is to find ways to innovate and reach new customers in a mature market. While we live and breathe the internet every day, there are still far too many Canadians being left behind in the digital transformation—it is our mission to reach them and bring them online. DP: GDPR – good, bad and/or indifferent to you and the wider industry and why? DF: Privacy is a major issue in our industry, and CIRA respects the privacy of our customers. Since 2008, CIRA has provided privacy to our individual registrants in the WHOIS. While we have not been impacted by GDPR as significantly as our European counterparts, ensuring that our customers feel comfortable and safe participating in the internet economy is essential to our industry’s growth. In Canada, we recently saw a strengthening of our privacy laws, and given the current cybersecurity landscape, CIRA supports strong privacy regulations for our customers. DP: What are you looking forward to in 2019? DF: The internet is always changing, that’s what makes it such an exciting industry to be a part of. In 2019, one of our main objectives is to get .CA domain names into the hands of more Canadians. We know that having a website is a critical element in the digital economy, and we are looking forward to reaching out to the next generation of domain name buyers, including small businesses and individuals, to help them get online. We also recognise the importance of ensuring that all Canadians have a safe and secure online experience. We want to make sure that all Canadians have cybersecurity protection—not just large enterprises with massive budgets. We will also continue to innovate on our industry leading Fury Registry Platform and will have some major milestones to announce in the coming months. As always, we are staying on top of the trends and changes that are influencing the internet in Canada and doing all we can to ensure Canadians can access, thrive and succeed online. DP: What challenges and opportunities do you see for the year ahead? DF: The challenge for CIRA is to continue to think about how to help Canadians succeed online. While in many ways our industry is mature, there is still plenty of opportunity to provide value to our customers. CIRA is the guardian of the .CA domain name registry, but we also work every day to improve Canada’s internet infrastructure through our work with Internet Exchange Points; to protect Canadians online with our D-Zone DNS Firewall; and to promote our national internet ecosystem through our Community Investment Program. DP: 2019 will mark 5 years since the first new gTLDs came online. How do you view them now? DF: Choice is always important, and a healthy industry is one where consumers have options, so in that respect gTLDs were a necessary element in the evolution of the domain name industry. However, gTLDs have a different business model, and while that may work for certain niche industries, we have seen their growth start to dwindle as consumers return to domain names with a longer track record. We believe this is why .CA domain names have largely bucked the trend and continued to grow, even among increased competition. It is clear that for many consumers, ccTLDs provide greater flexibility, stronger brand recognition, and a trust factor that makes them the best choice for their online identity. DP: Are domain names as relevant now for consumers – business, government and individuals – as they have been in the past? DF: Domain names are more relevant now than ever before. As every aspect of our lives goes online—from government services to banking to what to eat for dinner each night—ensuring that these services are easy and intuitive to find is essential to improving access. While social media platforms are powerful, organizations are beginning to realize the issues involved with not owning their own content, their audience or even having full control over their brand. The value of a having a website you own, content you control, and a domain name that is easy to remember, reflects your brand, and is safe and secure is essential to the success of a modern business. Previous Q&As in this series were with EURid, manager of the .eu top level domain (available here), with Katrin Ohlmer, CEO and founder of DOTZON GmbH (here), Afilias’ Roland LaPlante (here), DotBERLIN’s Dirk Krischenowski (here), DENIC (here) Internet.bs’ Marc McCutcheon (here), nic.at’s Richard Wein (here), Neustar’s George Pongas (here) and CentralNic's Ben Crawford (here). If you’d like to participate in this Domain Pulse series with industry figures, please contact David Goldstein at Domain Pulse by email to david[at]goldsteinreport.com.