US tech giants have launched a campaign to stop the practice, warning of “devastating” consequences if it continues.
Amazon, Google, Meta, and Microsoft have joined the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and France’s Bureau International de Poids et Mesures (BIPM) in asking for the elimination of the extra second that clocks occasionally add.
The notion was first developed in 1972 to keep Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) in sync with the long-term deceleration of the Earth’s rotation, making observations easier for scientists and astronomers.
It has since been used 27 times, but the industry effort plans to prevent any additional leap seconds from being added to avoid severe problems with computer networks when one is added.
Previously, there was a severe outage with Reddit in 2012, as well as issues with the online performance provider Cloudflare, whose technology is used to maintain millions of websites.
“Introducing new leap seconds is a risky practice that does more harm than good, and we believe it is time to introduce new technologies to replace it,” Meta wrote in a blog post on Monday.
“As engineers at Meta, we are supporting a larger community to stop the future introduction of leap seconds and remain at the current level of 27, which we believe will be enough for the next millenium.”
Moreover, Meta engineers also cautioned that the Earth’s changing rotation pattern could result in a negative leap second in the future, causing considerably more problems.
“The impact of a negative leap second has never been tested on a large scale; it could have a devastating effect on the software relying on timers or schedulers,” the blog post stated.
“In any case, every leap second is a major source of pain for people who manage hardware infrastructures.”
The matter will be reviewed at an International Telecommunications Union summit next year.