Meta proposes to eliminate leap seconds • The Register

The engineering team at Meta proposed to remove leap seconds.

Time Lords at International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service sometimes decrees to add a leap second – usually a 3601st second in an hour – to reflect the changing speed of the Earth’s rotation and to ensure that our time measurements remain accurate.

But leap seconds are surprisingly difficult for computers to digest, as was amply demonstrated in 2012 when the lack of allowances for leap seconds in the Linux kernel caused many problems. Another leap second, in 2015, coincided with similar issues.

A leap second in 2016 gave Cloudflare heartache.

The International Telecommunication Union will debate the elimination of leap seconds in 2023.

Prior to this decision, Facebook has announcement that he thinks the leap seconds have had their day.

“Introducing new leap seconds is a risky practice that does more harm than good, and we believe it’s time to introduce new technology to replace it,” wrote Meta production engineer Oleg Obleukhov. and research scientist Ahmad Byagowi in a Publish dated July 25.

The pair raised the prospect of adopting a negative leap second, which they said would be even more difficult to manage than the positive leap seconds that caused the chaos described above.

Meta’s preferred alternative for the leap second is “smearing” – a practice that spreads the leap second over 17 hours so that systems add the extra second but never have to insert a leap second.

As the post explains, smearing is very complex, and those who, like Meta, practice it cannot easily contribute their work to public network time protocol servers – although Google offers smudged time as a service. .

Meta’s Obleukhov and Byagowi did not offer an alternative to leap seconds, but said that “As engineers at Meta, we support a larger community to stop the future introduction of leap seconds.”

The register hope they succeed – it will mean less time for Facebook to swallow data.

But this decision is not up to us. Instead, it will be discussed some 41.5 million seconds after this article was published, when the ITU World Radiocommunication Conference 2023 will meet in November 2023. ®

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