Internet's Master Clock Saved From Lawsuit

Dennis Faas's picture

The group that operates the Internet's website address system will soon take over the running of a master clock used by millions of computers. Without the system, users would have to make manual adjustments when comparing time zones.

The Time Zone Database doesn't simply keep track of the fact that different cities operate on different times (example: Los Angeles is eight hours behind London) -- it also tracks the more complicated matter of different countries adjusting to and from daylight savings times on different dates.

The Time Zone Database can even tracks "leap seconds," which are defined as the occasional second added to the end of a year to reflect the subtle changes caused by the Earth slowly moving away from the sun.

Although the database isn't used by Windows PCs, it is used by Macs and Linux-based systems. It's also built into some software and numerous websites such as those designed to list the current time around the world. One particular feature is that the database can give details of time zone differences in the past and those planned in the future. (Source:

Time Zone Database Mastermind Retires

The database was originally created as a volunteer project in the 1980s.

Arthur David Olsen, one the key figures in the project, had been maintaining the database online but was preparing to retire when he was hit by a lawsuit from Astrolabe, an astrology software company. It says the project used copyrighted data while Olsen and colleagues maintain the data was in the public domain.

That led to the database being taken down from a government server as a precautionary measure. As a result, computers were able to use the current data but not get updates about any changes.

ICANN Takes Control

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which is best known for managing website addresses, has now agreed to take on responsibility for the database. It says that's an appropriate role that comes under its duty to maintain the stability of the Internet.

Technically, the lawsuit does not affect any of the currently active details in the database, instead only covering historical data. However, ICANN says it will keep the past data active and "deal with any legal matters as they arise." (Source:

| Tags:
Rate this article: 
No votes yet