Date Formats or Why YYYY/MM/DD > DD/MM/YYYY > MM/DD/YYYY


Simple really.

For a long time I have championed the “reverse” date format approach. This is for a number of reasons, but mostly for the fact it is vastly superior when used for “sorting” in computerised environments.

The two dominant date format systems in use today are DD/MM/YYYY & MM/DD/YYYY.

Both of these are severely flawed when dealing with sorting objects by date (03-04-2010 is listed before 04-03-1990 when sorted in ascending order in these traditional systems) , and whilst the first method seems, at first, to make sense; days, then months, then years, the second method does not even flow logically; months, then days, then years?! I don’t understand. (There are, of course, reasons for this format’s popularity, but they are deprecated and historic, rather than logical today).

Let us take a very similar example and consider how we sort time as opposed to date. Do we write, for instance; Seconds, Minutes & Hours? No. Do we write perhaps; Minutes, Seconds & Hours?  No that’s just silly. No we write Hours, Minutes & Seconds. In other words the larger unit goes first. This is internationally accepted as the correct way of communicating time.

We are long overdue such an “internationalisation” of dates and this should follow the same logical flow, for sorting, organisational and clarity reasons. Year, Month, Day.

One could argue, that we should simply use Year & Day Number, as this would save us a variable and avoid ANY confusion resulting from collisions in month & day number ranges, ie, in the old date format systems if a date reads 03/04/2010 is it referring to the 3rd of April or the 4th of March?

The major problem with day numbering is that we foolishly, in retrospect, did  not put our “leap day” in as an extra day at the very end of the year. This means that leap years damage the consistency of the system. So 2010/362 will not be the same day of the month as 2012/362 (as 2012 is a leap year).

One advantage of the “new” YYYY/MM/DD system is that it is rare enough still that if seen, people are likely to apply logic and assume it is Year, Month & Day. So it suffers less from the range collision issue.

So there you have it YYYY/MM/DD is clearly the best universal date format system that is actually practical at this time. Thus, I will continue to champion it for at least a further 7989 years. At which point a further, rather urgent, date related debate will, of course, be required.

One Comment

  1. I fully agree for my lifetime however there will probably be another urgent date debate before 10K arrives: when we are no longer an earthbound species and have left our solar system? We’ll need a universal rather than solar reference for time and date reference. Startrek’s stardate maybe:-)

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