Facebook’s parent company, Meta enjoys new ways to calculate time. Since 1972 there contain 27 leap seconds: extra seconds added to the world’s standard clock — UTC or Coordinated Universal Time — to account for Earth’s rotation rate transformations.
Historically, the concept of time is expressed as a fraction of the length of the solar day. Still, as the Earth’s spin rate is somewhat irregular (slowing and speeding based on diverse factors), solar time and universal time manage to drift apart. So, to compensate, we add leap seconds. And this confuses computers.
Just imagine you’re a computer. You have an unmistakable sense of time. You comprehend that there are 24 hours in a day, 60 minutes in an hour, and 60 seconds in a minute: all super. Then, on some arbitrary day, as you await the coming dawn, you watch with spectacle as your inner clock ticks over from 23:59:59 to the previously-undreamt-of time of 23:59:60. Quite naturally, you freak out. Maybe you hit a little to relax your nerves. As a result, you bring down some of the immense sites in the world. Naturally, everyone gets mad at you.
This is not a joke strategy. When a leap second was counted in 2012, it caused significant outages for sites like Foursquare, LinkedIn, Reddit, and Yelp. By 2015, when the subsequent leap second was due, engineers had mainly learned their classes, but there were still some glitches. Ditto 2016. As Linux creator Linus Torvalds positioned it:” Almost every moment we have a leap second, we find something. It’s annoying because it’s a definitive case of code that is basically never run, and thus not experimented by users under their normal conditions.”
Social media alliance Meta wants to get rid of the leap second. The company’s engineering team summarized their argument against adding leap seconds, saying it’s an adjustment that “primarily benefits scientists and astronomers.” This benefit is less significant than it once was, says Meta, and outweighed by the chaos leap seconds reason in the tech world.
“Introducing new leap seconds is a dangerous practice that does more hurt than good, and we believe it is time to familiarize new technologies to replace it,” says the company.
Meta is not alone in this, and this drive has attracted support from other tech giants like Google, Microsoft, and Amazon, as agreeably as heavy-hitters in the international measurement community, like the National Institute of Standards and Technology and France’s Bureau International de Poids et Mesures (BIPM).
But without leap seconds, what happens to coordinated universal time? Do we just let it fall out of sync with solar time? Well, there are options, as Meta points out. One alternative to the leap second is the smear second, which means slowing down digital clocks over a more extended period to account for the additional time to be added — effectively smearing the essential leap second across a span of hours in a single day.
However, there are concerns with this method too. There are lots of ways you can compute smear seconds. And, as there’s no single, centralized method of tracking time across the world’s many digital systems, this means alternate methods could also create confusion and outages.
At any rate, Meta isn’t suggesting a single solution to the leap second problem. It’s only saying that there requires to be one. And indeed, this is a problem many other organizations are examining right now. For instance, the next significant milestone will be a statement on the issue commissioned by the UN’s International Telecommunication Union or ITU in 2015. That’s due out in 2023. Because you really can’t rush this sort of thing.
National Institute of Standards and Technology is a physical sciences laboratory and a non-regulatory agency of the United States Department of Commerce. Its assignment is to encourage American innovation and industrial competitiveness. NIST’s activities are classified into laboratory programs that include engineering, information technology, nanoscale science and technology, material measurement, neutron research, and physical measurement. From 1901 to 1988, the agency was called the National Bureau of Standards.
The International Telecommunication Union is a specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for many matters related to information and communication technologies. It was launched on 17 May 1865 as the International Telegraph Union, earning it the oldest UN agency.
The ITU was initially aimed at assisting connect telegraphic networks between countries, with its mandate consistently widening with the advent of new communications technologies; it assumed its current name in 1934 to reflect its expanded responsibilities over the radio and the telephone. On 15 November 1947, the ITU agreed with the newly created United Nations to become a specialized tool within the UN system, formally documented into force on 1 January 1949.
The ITU promotes the shared global usage of the radio spectrum, promotes international cooperation in assigning satellite orbits, assists in developing and harmonizing worldwide technical standards, and works to improve telecommunication infrastructure in the developing world. It is also active in broadband Internet, wireless technologies, radio astronomy, satellite-based meteorology, aeronautical and maritime navigation, TV broadcasting, amateur radio, and next-generation networks.
Based in Geneva, Switzerland, the ITU’s global membership includes 193 countries and around 900 business, academic institutions, and international and regional organizations.
The Bureau International des Poids et Mesures or International Bureau of Weights and Measures, is an intergovernmental organization. Its 59 member-states act on measurement standards in four areas: chemistry, ionizing radiation, physical metrology, and coordinated universal time. It is based in Saint-Cloud, Paris, France. The organization has been referred to as IBWM (from its name in English) in older literature.