The Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA), the organization that manages the .ca top level domain, has at long last introduced support for the full range of special characters (notably french characters like è, é, û, à, ç, ë, and œ).
Under CIRA’s new regime, every special character variant of a registered .ca domain name will automatically become part of an “administrative bundle”. That means people cannot purchase variants of existing domains that vary in special characters only – a pre-requisit for preventing fraud, phishing and spam.
However, the special character variants are not automatically registered to domain owners, nor therefore are special character domain URLs resolved or forwarded to their standard counterparts.
That means that individuals, organizations and companies who wish to register and manage their special character domain variants will have to go to the effort and expense of registering the new domain.
So what are the reasons, benefits and trends associated with special character domains, which have already been available under may other top level domains (.com, .fr etc) for some time?
Who can register special character domains?
Under CIRA’s new regime, every special character variant of a registered .ca domain name will automatically become part of an “administrative bundle”. For example, the the domains listed on the right on the table below will be reserved exclusively for the owners of the domains on the left. But the owners will need to register the new special-character domains individually.
|Domain||Special character domain|
If no one yet owns any varietal of the domain you wish to buy, it is available as usual via CIRA-certified registrar.
In fact, this option has already been available for most other country domains, as well as generic domains like .com and .net, for many years. .pt domains, for example, have allowed special characters since 2005.
This begs the question why Canada, a country with an official language containing special characters, has been so slow in adopting the capability. One possibility why this may not have been a priority for CIRA because of the a low expected demand for such domains.
Across the Atlantic in France, CIRA’s french equivalent Afnic only introduced support for special-character domains on May 3, 2012. Take-up in France does not seem to have been huge. An quick check of some well-known french brands shows indifference to special character domains:
Examples of special character domains
Example of organizations using special characters in websites is actually quite hard to find (if you can find a high-profile example, please leave a comment), but some certainly have registered them, including these minor but easily found examples:
Why register a special-character domain?
If your brand name or your domain should, strictly speaking, contain an accent, you may benefit from registering that domain variant.
The benefit to be gained from registering (and properly configuring) this domain would become greater the more internet users use special characters in search engines and address bars. By registering the correct domain variant, you can:
- Have a canonical domain (shown in the address bar and search engine results) that matches your brand or is spelled correctly
- Use special characters in marketing material without the danger of people finding an error when they type the address into their browser
- Reduce potential 404s and broken links by redirecting more URL variants to your website (good for SEO)
- Appeal to more pedantic users with an eye for spelling (there must be a few people out there who have huffed at a missing accent, though probably not many)
What should I do with my new domain?
If you already have a .ca domain, no one can buy and use a variation using a special character, so you don’t need to worry over duly about phishing scams or spammers.
This new move is actually an opportunity for you to take advantage of some of the benefits listed above, if you think that they warrant the price of registering the new domain. If you do register a special character variant domain, you should consider the following:
Choose your canonical domain: If you would prefer that people see a special character in your URL (e.g. www.café-montréal.ca) set your DNS record for this domain to display your website, specify this domain in any canonical tags and redirect your other domain variants using a 301 redirect to your chosen domain. If you and your website’s audience don’t have any preference, check the search trends for your target keywords to see if people tend to search with or without special characters (e.g. do people search for café montréal or cafe montreal).
Redirect your new domain: If you want to keep your regular domain but you have registered a special-character variant for marketing or other purposes, make sure that it redirects to your chosen canonical domain. This is often most effectively achieved by creating a rule to send users to the corresponding URL for your main domain using a 301 redirect (e.g. café-montréal.ca/contact redirects to cafe-montreal/contact).
Update marketing material (printed and website): If you can now boldly use your name or URL with accents and special characters, you can update your name and website addresses on printed and digital marketing material accordingly.
What about .QC.CA domains?
These domains have not been available since 2010.