Since .CA's inception 25 years ago and the birth of the modern Internet in 1990, the Internet has grown to include almost 240 million registered domains online. And while the rate of growth has slowed in the face of the global recession, domain name sales continue to be strong.

New registrations were up by over 24 million in 2012, and by over 70 per cent in the last 5 years, as companies and individuals continued to develop or enhance their online presence. Websites have become almost as common as business cards in today's digital world.

Among top-level domains, .COM is the market share leader, accounting for roughly 43 per cent of all online addresses. There are 20 other Generic top-level domains (gTLD)A generic top-level domain is a suffix attached to Internet domain names, made up of three or more letters that identifies it as associated with a domain class. Common examples are .com, .net, .org, and .biz. , including .NET, .ORG and .BIZ, which are all within the top 10, though with only a fraction of the .COM market share. In total, gTLDs have roughly 60 per cent of the market.

It is the country code top-level domains (ccTLDs)A country code top-level domain is a 2 letter suffix for Internet domain names that corresponds to a country, territory, or geographic location. .CA is the ccTLD for Canada. , such as .CA, .FR and .UK that are experiencing the fastest growth, more than doubling from 2007 to 2012 as they've increased in popularity. There are 258 ccTLDs, though not all are currently operating.

Among the ccTLDs, the .DE domain, associated with Germany, has the most addresses. It is second only to .COM worldwide in total registrations.

Global TLD registration trends 2007-2012

The domain boom continues with steady growth in new registrations every quarter. Over the last 5 years, registrations are up by 70 per cent to almost 240 million domains online.

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There are 258 country code Top-Level Domains, though not all are currently operating.

Interestingly, the tiny territory of Tokelau in the South Pacific has become a major player in the domain name system, rapidly rising to number 4 on the list. This is due to the fact that the .TK registry provides domain names free to anyone, regardless of place of residence. Other ccTLDs also act like gTLDs. .CO, for example, is open for registration by anyone. While this practice opens the world market to the ccTLDs, their distribution goes beyond the national borders for where it was delegated.

.CA allows Canadians to do business and/or connect with other Canadians in a safe, secure, and trusted enviroment.

More typically, however, ccTLDs serve as a national identifier, which is certainly the case for .CA, whose steady growth among Canadian organizations has placed it among the top 20 top-level domainsThe suffix attached to Internet domain names, such as .CA online. Unlike .TK, .CO or other ccTLDs that act as gTLDs, there are Canadian presence requirements to register .CA. These requirements ensure that someone interacting with a .CA can be assured that the individual or business has a connection to Canada. Canadians repeatedly report that they want to do business and/or connect with other Canadians. .CA allows them to do that in a safe, secure and trusted environment.

Global TLD market share 2007-2012

.CA is also the fourth fastest growing ccTLD in the world. This growth is the result of .CA's strong connection to Canada. The domain name market will change significantly with the introduction of hundreds of new gTLDs in early 2013. Though not the first time new TLDs have been added, the sheer number that are under consideration, and the fact that there may be calls to add more new TLDs in the future, makes this expansion unique in the history of the InternetA global system of interconnected computer networks that use the Internet Protocol Suite (TCP/IP) to communicate with each other. .

To date, there have been fewer than 300 top-level domain names; with this expansion, that number could more than triple in 2013 and 2014. It is hard to identify another area of business where the scope and depth of change has occurred in such a short period of time.

The introduction of such a number of new players into the domain name environment is tantamount to a deregulated market; it will fundamentally disrupt the current business model of many top-level domain registries.

The bottom-line is the market is about to provide consumers with more choice and domain incumbents more competition. The incumbent players in the domain name industry (registries, Registrars and Registrants) will see new benefits and challenges in the coming years.

For registries like CIRA, the marketplace is going to get more competitive as Registrants have significantly more choice. It will be important for registries to operate in as efficient a manner as possible. For incumbent registries, it will be of utmost importance to differentiate their product offering through enhanced marketing activities to stand out in the marketplace.

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Globally, registrations of domain names were up by over 70 per cent in the last 5 years

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TLD top 25 ranking Q2 2012

Registries will also have to compete for shelf space with Registrars, as they begin to offer a significantly expanded product line. This will result in a fundamental upheaval in the relationship between Registrars and registries, while also resulting in greater innovation for the consumer.

Registries will have to create incentives for Registrars to give their product – TLDs – prominence on their websites and marketing materials. This could include financial incentives, like decreased support costs from efficiencies instituted by the registry for the Registrar, or through direct price reductions. It will also be incumbent on registries to drive demand for their product offerings through enhanced marketing activities.

An ongoing threat to the domain name industry is the global economic downturn. While domain name sales have been strong, in the past 6 months the growth rates for domain name sales generally have been slowing down.

Top-level domain growth rates 2007-2012

While there's healthy growth across the board, ccTLDs are growing at a faster rate than gTLDs. Notably, .CA is one of the fastest-growing top-level domains in the world.

gTLD and ccTLD registrations per (1,000) capita

In most countries, respective ccTLDs enjoy a greater share of registrations per capita than their gTLD counterparts. There are exceptions, most notably the United States and Canada. .COM has the highest proportion of registrations per (1000) capita in both of these countries, though .COM has been losing market share ground to .CA in Canada.

gTLD renewal trends, 4-year view

While TLD registration rates continue to increase, renewals of gTLDs – though they tend to fluctuate, have remained relatively stable over the past 5 years. Data on ccTLD renewals is generally not available to the public.

Market share of top-level domains

.COM has long been the main domain in North America with a greater share of the market in the U.S. and Canada than anywhere. That said more and more Canadians are choosing .CA, which has increased its market share from 21 per cent to 30 per cent over the last 5 years, for the most part at the expense of .COM.