'Leap Second' Could Pose Web Problems This Summer

Prominent websites and apps could once again face problems this summer when officials tack an additional second onto Tuesday, June 30.

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Prominent websites and apps could once again face problems this summer when officials tack an additional second onto Tuesday, June 30.

That date, however, also could be the last time the issue of the "leap second" pops up, depending on the outcome of a vote by an international telecommunications group.

The International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service, based in Paris, last week announced the additional second due to a small slowdown in the Earth's rotation, which can be impacted by tectonic activity or changes in gravitational forces.

The change has become relatively routine  25 leap seconds have occurred since their introduction in 1972  but the single, 61-second minute can wreak havoc on computers, particularly websites and software running Unix, which predates the leap second by two years.

A summer 2012 leap second, for example, caused Reddit, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon and a host of other noteworthy websites to shut down, while Google now takes steps to avoid problems the website saw after a 2005 leap second.

Critics of leap seconds, however, hope the International Telecommunications Union votes to end the practice at its next meeting. Although the change would sacrifice accuracy, they note ignoring changes in rotation would only have a 16-minute impact over the next 1,000 years  something they say doesn’t justify the tech problems needed to keep up.


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