|Why on Earth use the date format YYYY-MM-DD?
Time and again, I look at US American letters, software, web pages,
what have you. As I read along, I run into these dates like 05/10/96.
"Hmm", I say to myself, and "um", and "?@*# giddarnit!
" Is this May or October?!
Imagine we will some time soon celebrate the year 2000 and then 2001
and so forth. Are we all on this little planet really going to be satisfied
reading and interpreting for another thousand years the likes of 05/10/01??
Are we looking forward in this case to a date in May, October or January?
Or, for that part, will it be any better to write 10.05.01 as
they do in Germany, for example?
Now that I have your attention, may I direct your attention to your
readers. We all communicate in writing, maybe even more so in cyberspace
that we used to do by postal mail. The readers are you and I everywhere.
We all have, from our native language, learned habits of writing dates.
These habits continue to confuse the larger part of our readers world wide.
Remember: you are a foreigner – almost everywhere.
Yes, I hear you say in the background, thousands of programmers are
busy now updating legacy software to handle the millennium jump. Well then,
I ask, is the format for the year 2000 going to be 05/10/2001 or
10.05.2001? What do the readers say? Shall we call it progress and
quit for another thousand years?
Ladies and Gentlemen, Microsoft
and Lotus, UNIX and OS/2 and anyone who decides on a default date
format in software: PLEASE get your most significant digits right!
Windows supports the international date format, Word does it, Excel does
not in cell formats. Aaargh!
I think we all can do better. Let's undo this tower of Babel for dates.
Here and now, we are in the forefront of this growing international environment
called the Internet. And it would not be the first calendar reform in history,
Whether they suspect it or not, programmers are in a position
to remove this worldwide confusion. Programmers can gain agreement and
support for this idea from their customers, their managers, their friends.
Use this chance. Harmonize that date format! Please.
Yes, it is a break with tradition. Yes, it may feel awkward in the beginning.
It may even affect the Internet. ;-) But, once you get used to it, you
may wonder how on earth did we get along before.