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The Time Zone Database

Father Time is actually Volunteer Arthur David Olsen

Where does the timezone database come from? I never gave it much thought but would have assumed that it was under the purview of some standards body somewhere. It's not. Since the inception of the database Arthur David Olson has maintained the database, coordinated the mailing list and volunteers and provided a release platform and now he is retiring.

IANA is developing a transition strategy.
IANA Procedures for Maintaining the Timezone DatabaseAbstract ATTENTION: This memo contains a DRAFT proposal for the IANA to assume operational responsibilities relating to the management of the Timezone (TZ) Database.

Jon Udell has an interesting literary appreciation of the timezone database."

October 17th, 2011
The Time Zone Database is used by computers and websites to keep track of time zones around the world and allows people to set clocks simply by choosing a city. Select New York, for example, 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. Without this database and others like it, computers would display Greenwich Mean Time, or the time in London when it isn't on summer time. People would have to manually calculate local time when they schedule meetings or book flights. 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 Corp, Unix and Linux, but not Microsoft's Windows. Some non-internet functions, such as calendar software, also incorporate the database.

The database was abruptly removed from a US government server because of a lawsuit claiming copyright infringement. Although those functions continued to work after the database disappeared from the government's server, computer systems couldn't get updates to reflect changes in time zones and in the duration of summer time. ICANN has been in discussions for months about taking over the database with the impending retirement of its long-time coordinator.

ICANN agreed to manage the database after receiving a request from the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). Arthur David Olson, an employee of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) who volunteered as coordinator as a side project, began looking for a new home for the database in 2009. ICANN accelerated those discussions and took over management after the database was removed from NIH's server on 6 October, following a lawsuit over historical data used.

Astrology software company Astrolabe argues that Olson and another volunteer at University of California, Los Angeles, should have paid royalties for including data from its software. The defendants have insisted that the data are in the public domain and not subject to copyright. Their employers were not named as defendants.

 

Where does the timezone database come from? I never gave it much thought but would have assumed that it was under the purview of some standards body somewhere. It's not. Since the inception of the database Arthur David Olson has maintained the database, coordinated the mailing list and volunteers and provided a release platform and now he is retiring. IANA is developing a transition strategy. Jon Udell has an interesting literary appreciation of the timezone database."

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