Since 1972, Coordinated World Time or UTC has been used, a time indication based on an atomic clock and the rotation of the Earth. Since then, there have been 27 leap seconds, correcting the clock for minute changes in the Earth’s rotation. Such a leap second is added at midnight, the clock does not jump from 23:59:59 to 00:00:00, but once to 23:59:60.
Computers are confused by this exception because it goes against the internal logic of 60 seconds per minute, 60 minutes per hour, and 24 hours per day. And so something is usually wrong, because it is very difficult to test this exceptional circumstance. When a leap second was added in 2012, major websites like Reddit, LinkedIn and Foursquare and Yelp went offline. In 2015 there was a new leap second and the big fearbut the problems turned out to be less, but Always presentjust like in 2016. The next leap second could be December 31.
Meta: “Stop it”
Meta, parent company of Facebook calls out to drop the leap second. Adding leap seconds is a risky practice that does more harm than good, and we think it’s time to replace it with new technologies.
The company isn’t alone: Tech giants Google, Microsoft and Amazon are also behind the call, reports CBS. And the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the French Bureau International de Poids et Mesures (BIPM) are also behind the call – these institutions are responsible for defining the units.
‘Secondary lubrication’ as an alternative
The leap second is valuable for astronomers, for example, who view celestial bodies based on UTC time. However, according to Meta, this is less important than the potential damage the leap second can cause if the systems fail.
As an alternative, Meta offers a “lube second”, an idea where Google arrived in 2011. The leap second is then not added all at once, but spread out in smaller pieces over the whole day. However, this option is also not without its pitfalls, as there are multiple ways to smear the leap second, and no centralized standard way to do so yet.
The solution not yet in sight
According to Meta, the second lubrication is therefore not the solution for the leap second. The company mainly states that the current situation is outdated. The involvement of the two major definition agencies is encouraging for the tech giants.
The next step will take time. A second interim report, commissioned in 2015 by the United Nations’ International Telecommunications Union, a body dedicated to standardizing telecommunications issues, will be released next year.
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