Did you know there was such a thing as “Internet Time”?
I didn’t - not until a few weeks ago, anyway.
Organising meetings across time zones
I was going through the usual palava of trying to arrange a meeting with two people in different timezones, one of whom was going to be travelling at the time, and there was an imminent change in daylight saving time to account for too.
I had absolutely zero confidence that the meeting would go ahead with everyone there (and it turns out I was right).
Surely this must be a solved problem, I thought? I can’t be the only one who struggles to get this sorted.
And, of course, it is a solved problem. We have UTC,
Universal Time Coordinated Coordinated Universal Time.
But no-one I know actually uses UTC.
In fact, most people I know don’t even use timezones - they talk about “5.30pm UK time” or similar, which makes sense but still annoys me.
But perhaps I should start using UTC.
In searching for a solution, I stumbled across the notion of “Internet Time”, from 1998.
Internet Time exists so that we do not have to think about timezones. For example, if a New York web-supporter makes a date for a chat with a cyber friend in Rome, they can simply agree to meet at an “@ time” - because internet time is the same all over the world.
How come I hadn’t heard about this before?!
How does it work?
“Internet Time” is a decimal time.
Rather than breaking a day up into 24 hours of 60 minutes - 1,440 minutes - it has a nice round 1000 “.beats”.
As Swatch, the company behind it, says:
So, one Swatch “.Beat” is equivalent to 1 Minute 26.4 Seconds.
.beats are represented using “@” followed by the number of beats, starting at @000 (which is midnight Biel (Switzerland) Meantime).
I’m writing this at 20:33 GMT, which is @897 .beats, in Internet Time.
There’s no concept of daylight saving: it’s the same time the whole year round, everywhere.
Want to convert from whatever your timezone is to Internet Time? Here’s a converter - albeit a rather dated one.
Gimmick or greatness?
Well, this hasn’t exactly caught on, has it?
I’m Really Quite Online, and I hadn’t heard of it before - or, at least, if I had heard of it, I hadn’t remembered it, let alone used it.
But… I rather like it. It would take some getting used to, for sure, but having a single, static, time reference, wherever you are in the world, seems ostensibly attractive.
I think I prefer it to UTC, precisely because it’s not like a normal timezone. There’s less risk of confusion as to what timezone someone is talking about, for a start.
A major downside (apart from lack of adoption)? Even if people were to use it for online meetings / Internet-based communications, other places - shops, libraries etc. - will still be working in “normal” time in whatever timezone you are, which in some cases will change in line with daylight saving times, so you’d probably spend forever trying to convert between the two, to work out if you’ve double-booked yourself or not.
The other aspect which really grates on me is that this was not a consensus-driven, collaborative, Internet thing, but a commercial, corporate thing. It was Swatch’s thing (at least, as far as I can tell). And that puts me off a bit.
Internet Time, in a watch
I love my PineTime smart watch, but there are times when I can’t have a smart watch on. So I wanted a non-smart watch, and not to spend a fortune on it.
Why not get a watch with Internet Time in it, as a bit of a novelty?!
Well, partly the answer is “they’re old, and seem to be a bit collectible, so they’re not as cheap as I wanted”.
But I found one, in good condition (although sadly without the .beat manual / documentation), for a reasonable enough price.
It’s a chunky, ostentatious, but - to my eyes, at least - rather fun. And it has Internet Time on it, which appeals to me.
Will I ever arrange a meeting using Internet Time? I doubt it…
Other “Internet Time”-esque proposals
Ben Clifford pointed out a similar corporate “Internet Time” plan from 2004: “Greenwich Electronic Time”.
Madeleine showed me “Decimal Internet Time (DIT)”, which looks pretty similar but without the corporate nature of Swatch’s “Internet Time”, and using a different meridian, in the middle of the Pacific.