Internet Time

Brought to you by SWATCH.


Swatch AG has declared there is a new meridian right on the facade of their international headquarters, and invented something called "internet time". The concept, at least, is interesting, if you can get past the stench of shameless self-promotion and marketing-approved terminology.

It divides the day into 1000 ".beats" (gag) and has no concept of TimeZones, DaylightSavingTime, or whatever. It's the same everywhere. Of course, with the 1000 figure, it smells metric, so we in the US will steadfastly refuse to adopt it, I'm sure. :-)

To: The Rest of the World, From: Us Americans. You can sign me up to refuse to use it. And you can keep your other metric crap, too. :)

who cares if it is metric - I just will not accept a time standard set by a marketing company without input from the rest of us

1000 also has high granularity; by the figures above a "beat" represents 86.4 seconds. I dread the thought of people referring to "centi-beats" or even "milli-beats"...

InternetTime at least addresses a perceived problem: If we standardize to one time (like UTC), then somebody is living in the "right" time zone, and the rest of the world are living in the "wrong" time zone. Of course it doesn't help that the UTC is a BritishCulturalAssumption at heart. That means Americans hate it (because we know America is the center of the universe) and it means that the non-Anglo world hates it too. The only other way we could make it work, is if we made UTC the timezone where the fewest people lived.

How does Swatch's InternetTime address this? They put the Swiss in the right timezone instead of the Brits? How does that make it better for, say the Japanese?

You're misunderstanding the whole idea. Internet Time doesn't "put the Swiss in the 'right' timezone", it puts everyone in the world in the right time zone. That it happens to align to Swiss time is inconsequential; any time measurement system has to be aligned to something. And UTC doesn't do this? Not even the U.K. observes UTC locally - something a lot like it, but the differences are there. *No-one* uses UTC for local time - only derivatives.

For a look on how time affects the Internet, see InternetCycles.

Using metric time is stupid anyway. The division to 1440 minutes is much better than 1000 beats, because 1440 has much more divisors.

Isn't there already an InternetTime? You can find what I'm talking about in thg GnoMe? taskbar clock capplet.

Besides, I think 100,000 is better anyway. It should be about .86 seconds per beat (yuk ;).

 100     = 86 seconds (~ min + half)
 10,000  ~~ hour
 10 "beat-hours" per day

By the way, does anyone know why there are 24 hours in a day?"

According to [] It's because when the ancient babylonians scheduled guards to watch the locked-up food, they had two watches (guards) during the day, and two watches during the night. Each watch worked the same amount of time. Since they were used to base 6 numbering, they divided each watch into 6 subdivisions. 4 x 6 = 24.

Plausible, but I have no idea if it's correct. -- SeanOleary

Hmmm... More Googling caused me to find [] which has a more authoritative feel (since it's written by someone from the US Naval Observatory) and it seems less anecdotal. -- SeanOleary
See also: WikiTimeDilation?

First of all, time must of course be metric. There is no point having a decimal number system if your units are any random base. For you Americans, metric isn't so hard. Your money is metric. One "cent" might have been called a centidollar (cent from the French centime - "one-hundredth part"). It's to the dollar exactly what a centimeter is to a meter. Would you rather have the old British money system? 4 farthings were one penny, 12 Pence were 1 Shilling, and 20 Shillings were 1 Pound. And one Guinea was 1 Pound, 1 Shilling (why??). And 1 Crown was 5 Shillings. And 1 Florin was one tenth of a pound (2 Shillings). So what does this bubblegum actually cost? Wait, let me consult my charts and tables for a while...

The biggest benefit with the metric system is that there are really only three units to learn, for size and mass. Meter (for length, area, and volume), liter (volume) and gram (mass). Everything else is just fractions or multiples of ten of these. Add deci-, centi-, milli-, deca-, and so on to your heart's content, but you only need to learn three units. Compare the Imperial system where you must learn that there are 16 cups on a gallon, much like the British money system.

So, time should be metric. For more about metric time, have a look at Tentime (, a decimal calendar and time keeping system.

Back to Swatch Internet Time. Their biggest mistake is the very thing that is supposed to make Beat Time "Internet." Time zones aren't an artificial construct. They're part of the very nature of cyclic earth time. Earth times have meanings. The meaning of 12 o'clock is that you are on the side of the earth facing the sun. The meaning of 8 pm is that it's dinner time, or time to put the kids to bed. The clock is a map of space, not time. See a longer explanation here:

By simply skipping time zones, Beat Time removes any meaning from clock times. 12 o'clock means nothing. You don't know if it's day or night, lunch or bedtime. That nullifies what the system is all for in the first place. Which is why Beat Time isn't really happening.

The usual day/night scheduling is also flawed. It's based on sun-up and sun-down and in the US that led to the creation of 'daylight savings time' where clocks are set ahead an hour to make up for the changing amounts of daylight (I've always wondered why people didn't just suddenly set their clocks ahead a half hour and forget all about DST). Electricity is now common. The streets and buildings are kept in light and now we have round-the-clock shift schedules. Few large cities sleep during the night anymore. Swatch time, to me, does seem like a good idea and if we ever start living on other planets or in the dead of space, we are going to need a universal time system that isn't based on an Earth-borne timezone.
Another novel time system that attempts to have global appeal by not giving anyone "preferred" status is New Earth Time ( The website is interesting in spite of the faint whiff of pending commercialism.

Its meridian is Greenwich, so Britain gets "preferred" status, no matter what they say. They divide the day up into 360 "degrees" as opposed to 1,000 beats, but otherwise it's the same thing.

The real meaning of Internet Time

The notion of Internet time originated in the internet bubble of the late 90s. What it was was the idea that product development and lifecycles were vastly accelerated in the internet age. So a product or innovation that would have taken a decade or so to become widespread before the internet came around, would only take a year or two at most. This notion is what fueled the crazed gold-rush mentality. It is false as conclusively established by AndrewOdlyzko and written up in ( Apparently, the only people that function on internet time are college students.


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