Google, Microsoft, Meta and Amazon are publicly trying to cancel leap second – an additional mark that synchronizes clocks with the actual rotation of the Earth. The governments of France and the United States joined the technological giants.
The leap second was introduced in 1972. Since then, it has been added 27 times to international atomic time so that it does not deviate from solar time due to the uneven rotation of the Earth. However, the leap second poses many problems for computers. In the end, according to the technology companies, it brings more inconvenience than benefit, since the speed of the rotation of the Earth has not changed much historically.
“We are predicting that if we just stick to the TAI without leap second observation, we should be good for at least 2,000 years. Perhaps at that point we might need to consider a correction,” says the Meta researcher.
The companies are supported by two key government timekeeping institutions – the US National Institute of Standards and Technology and the International Bureau of Weights and Measures in France. Support for these institutions is critical because ultimately governments and scientists, not technology companies, are responsible for the world clock.
The leap second already caused a massive Reddit crash in 2012, as well as problems at Mozilla, LinkedIn and other services. In 2017, an outage at Cloudfare shut down a portion of their customers’ servers. To mitigate the impact of the leap second, Google introduced the idea of adding it not all at once, but in many tiny steps throughout the day.