Google develops the equivalent of “Greenwich Mean Time” for a global, virtual world

Google develops the equivalent of “Greenwich Mean Time” for a global, virtual world

In 1784, a carriage service first published a schedule of its rides in Britain. Back then, there wasn’t really a standardized notion of time across the towns and cities on its routes. At any given time, it might be 12:00 in London, but 12:20 in Liverpool or 11:50 in Canterbury. The carriages were slow enough, and coordination didn’t matter enough to require better synchronization of times across places. That changed with the arrival of railroads. In 1847, British train operators put their heads together and developed Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) as a standard with which to synchronize time. In 1880, the government adopted the standard for all timetables in Britain. (Summarized from Yuval Noah Harari’s book, Sapiens.)

Might it be that with Spanner, Google is the forefront of a new notion of standardized time, tuned for the emerging needs of a global, virtual economy?

HT Wayne Radinsky.


Originally shared by Wayne Radinsky

Spanner, the Google database that mastered time, is now open to everyone.

“They equipped Google’s data centers with a series of GPS receivers and atomic clocks. The GPS receivers, much like the one in your cell phone, grab the time from various satellites orbiting the globe, while the atomic clocks keep their own time. Then they shuttle their time readings to master servers in each data center. These masters constantly trade readings in an effort to settle on a common time.”

“A margin of error still exists, but thanks to so many readings, the masters can bootstrap a far more reliable timekeeping service. ‘This gives you faster-than-light coordination between two places.'”

“Google calls this timekeeping technology TrueTime, and only Google has it.”
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