Time Sucks

One of the hardest things to program is the Date and Time. This is especially true when your doing it on the web. Why is that? Using a unix timestamp is immensely helpful and resolves many of the complexities, but it does have some issues (besides the Y2K38 bug). Well lets take a look at some of the “typical” things you need to be aware of:

  • Your server is in one timezone, your users are in 23 others.
    Users don’t care what the time is at the site. They want things in their time.
  • Does your server even know your users timezone?
    You could do this with JavaScript, and send it to the server, but that’s a mess. Or send a timestamp to the client, and let JavaScript print it out. But that’s still messy.
  • Timezones aren’t obvious (think Indiana).
    Did you know some even use :30 such as UTC-3:30 for Newfoundland Standard Time.
  • Looking back in time (or forwards) is difficult (how many hours between X and Y accounting for leap years, and DST changes)?
    This is a mess, enough said. And just in case you have a formula, did you account for the conversion between Julian and Gregorian calendars? Don’t forget not everyone switched in 15 October 1582 / 4 October 1582. Going forward remember we’ll eventually have another leap day, since the Gregorian calendar isn’t perfect.
  • Your server observes DST. Does your user? When?
    Get the picture? Remember most states do, except for Hawaii (yea, that’s another Timezone) but Arizona doesn’t either, except for Navajo Nation. Again Indiana!
  • The Politics of Time…
    If you call UTC+2 Israel Standard Time, you upset visitors from Muslim nations like Egypt. Call it Central Africa Time, or Egypt Standard Time and your considered anti-semitic. Same goes for UTC+8, is it Chinese Standard Time or Hong Kong Time? Most avoid this by just listing UTC±N. Unfortunately this confuses people, especially Americans who only refer to timezones as “Eastern” (UTC-5), “Central” (UTC-6), “Mountain” (UTC-7) “Pacific” (UTC-8). Note these American names aren’t so common in all of North/South America.
  • Daylight Savings Time for 2007+
    Then you have a bunch of clowns who voted for the Energy Policy Act of 2005, creating the Y2K7 bug. The idea was an extra hour of daylight in the evening would reduce electrical use. What they didn’t realize is that it cuts daylight from the morning. My guess would be a follow up bill may fine the sun for failing to provide adequate light, and eventually include economic sanctions. 😛

I thought a while back this could suck. Think about all the time/money that goes into updating and testing systems for these few extra weeks of DST. What a drag.

Swatch Internet Time was an obvious bust, but perhaps we could all just use UTC?