Just as the web was starting to bounce back from the Power Outage due to the East Coast Storm that knocked out slew of Social media sites like Instagram, Pinterest and Netflix, a planned “leap second” — the addition of one second onto the world’s official clocks to keep us on track with the actual rotation of the Earth — tripped up the functions of a number of other major websites including Reddit and Gawker.
The storm, which packed winds of up to 90 mph, knocked out power to millions of homes -- and to some of Amazon's Cloud services in Virginia. That took Netflix offline. Web users who went hunting for other distractions found even more frustration, as Pinterest was also knocked offline, and the Instagram photo-sharing service wasn't working either.
But sites like Reddit, Mozilla, Gawker, FourSquare, Yelp, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon and possibly many other web outfits experienced brief technical problems on Saturday evening, due to the “leap second” that was added to the world’s atomic clocks.
On Saturday June 30th, as June turned into July, at midnight Greenwich Mean Time, the Earth’s official time keepers added extra second to their clocks in order to keep them in sync with the planet’s daily rotation, and according to reports from across the web, some of the net’s big Companies and software platforms — including the Linux operating system and the Java application platform — were unable to cope with the extra second.
Many Companys’ computing systems use what’s called the Network Time Protocol, or NTP, to keep themselves in sync with the world’s atomic clocks, and when an extra second is added, some just don’t know how to handle it.
Some operations, including Google, saw the leap second coming and prepared for it, but others weren’t.
In a post to Twitter, Reddit — the popular news aggregation and discussion site said it was experiencing problems with “Java/Cassandra,” referring to the open source database, and it attributed these problems to the leap second. Originally designed by Facebook and now used across the web and beyond, Cassandra is built with Java.
Mozilla also experienced problems with Hadoop, another open source platform written in Java. Blaming the leap second, since the problems had hit at midnight GMT.
Gawker said that it experienced the leap bug problem with the Java-happy Tomcat web servers it uses to serve up its site. “Our web servers running tomcat came close to zero response (we were able to handle some requests),” read an email from a site spokesman. “We were able to connect to servers in order to reset them. Only rebooting the servers cleared up the issue.”
In September of last year, with a blog post, Google detailed how it deals with leap seconds. The web giant uses a technique is calls “leap smear,” where it gradually adds milliseconds to its system clocks prior to the official arrive of the leap second.
“This meant that when it became time to add an extra second at midnight, our clocks had already taken this into account, by skewing the time over the course of the day,” the company said. “All of our servers were then able to continue as normal with the new year, blissfully unaware that a leap second had just occurred.”
Australian airline Qantas also reported delays due to a software problem with the airline's reservation system, impacted by the leap second.
A second may go by in the blink of an eye, but if the clocks are not adjusted now, time as we know it could eventually become very different.
John Lowe, head of the time and frequency services group at the National Institute of Standards and Technology says that without the changes, “sunrise” could eventually occur at sunset, according to the Los Angeles Times.
You could even experience “Spring” could even in the middle of winter.