Tue, Oct 18, 2011 - Page 6 News List

Key time zone database gets new home


The organization in charge of the Internet’s address system is taking over a database widely used by computers and Web sites to keep track of time zones around the world.

The transition to the Internet Corp for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) comes a week after the database was abruptly removed from a US government server because of a US federal lawsuit claiming copyright infringement.

Without this database and others like it, computers would display Greenwich Mean Time — the time in London when it is not on summer time. People would have to manually calculate local time when they schedule meetings or book flights.

The Time Zone Database allows people to set clocks simply by choosing a city. For example, select New York and the computer will know that it is normally five hours behind London, but four hours during a brief period when the US is still on summer time and Britain is not.

The database is updated more than a dozen times a year and is used by a range of computer operating systems including Apple’s Mac OS X, Oracle, Unix and Linux, but not Microsoft’s Windows.

It is also used by several Web sites that tell people what the current time is around the world or what time it will be in Sydney or Moscow next Tuesday at 8pm in Los Angeles. Some non-Internet functions, such as calendar software, also incorporate the database.

Although those functions continued to work after the database disappeared from the government’s server, computer systems could not get updates to reflect changes in time zones and in the duration of summer time.

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