Leap seconds that synchronize clocks with Earth’s rotation cause more trouble than they’re worth, say Meta, Microsoft, Google, Amazon and two government agencies. Google, Microsoft, Meta and Amazon launched a public effort Monday to eliminate the leap second, an occasional extra tick that keeps clocks in sync with the Earth’s actual rotation. US and French timing authorities agree and can Wreak Havoc on internet.
Since 1972, world timekeeping authorities have added a leap second 27 times to the world clock known as International Atomic Time (IAT). Instead of 23:59:59 changing to 0:0:0 midnight, an additional 23:59:60 is entered. That causes a lot of indigestion for computers, which rely on a network of precise servers to schedule events and to record the exact sequence of activities.
The temporary adjustment causes more problems, such as Internet outages, than benefits, they say. And dealing with leap seconds is ultimately pointless, the group argues, since the Earth’s rotation rate hasn’t really changed much historically. “Perhaps at that time we should consider a correction.
This government support is critical, since ultimately it is governments and scientists, not technology companies, that are in charge of the world’s global clock system. The leap second change caused a massive Reddit outage in 2012, as well as related problems at Mozilla, LinkedIn, Yelp, and the Amadeus airline reservation service.
Computers are very good at counting. But humans introduce irregularities like leap seconds that can make the process difficult. One of the most infamous was the Y2K bug, when human-made databases recorded only the last two digits of the year and messed up the math when 1999 became 2000. A related problem Wreak Havoc will come in 2038 when a 32-bit number that some computers use to count the seconds since January 1, 1970 is no longer large enough.