Time Change as if by Magic: International Internet Governance Watches Over Correct Time

  • eco’s Managing Director Alexander Rabe: “Proofpoint for functioning multi-stakeholder approach in Internet governance.”
  • Expert group of the international Internet administration ICANN ensures smooth time changeover of digital devices and applications
  • Time Zone Database records all time adjustments worldwide since 1970
  • The eco Association is hosting the 78th ICANN meeting in Hamburg, Germany, 21-26 October 2023

Who changed the clocks? When we change from winter to summer time at 1:00 UTC on Sunday morning, most devices such as mobile phones, televisions and laptops magically move forward themselves by one hour. Millions of electronic devices adjust the time, flight schedules are automatically changed and calendars are resynchronised without us having to lift a finger.

This achievement is a credit to the Internet industry, especially the Time Zone Database as part of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). This institution is one of the oldest on the Internet and a division of ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers). It has an important administrative role on the Internet, namely to uniquely assign all domain names and numbering systems such as IP addresses. This creates the basis for all website calls and connections on the Internet.

Expert group watches over the correct times around the world

The automated time change is the result of intensive and careful preparatory work by a group of volunteers who coordinate the time zones in a forum run by IANA, feed, check and regularly update the Time Zone Database (tz database). This database is a machine-readable description of the time zones, including all time changes, defined by an extensive set of mathematical rules and formulae. Devices connected to the Internet regularly request the correct time for their location and deliver the correct time themselves.

The database stores all changes, including historical time adjustments since 1970. It can predict the correct time for all locations on earth and also takes leap seconds into account, i.e. minimal corrections to compensate for irregularities in the earth’s rotation. The group of experts continuously monitors reports on changes in time zones and enters them into the database. The entire project goes back to Arthur David Olson, who held this role for many years; today, Dr Paul Eggert and Tim Parenti head the group.

Around 2,500 ICANN experts meet in Hamburg in October

“As eco, we support ICANN’s goal of maintaining and further developing the openness, decentralisation and interoperability of the Internet,” says eco’s Managing Director Alexander Rabe. “The Time Zone Database exemplifies the added value that can be created through the cooperation of many different stakeholders from the Internet industry, the non-profit sector and politics, as well as private individuals, and is a proof point that the model of an independently acting multi-stakeholder organisation of Internet governance within ICANN works.” For example, eco has been involved in ICANN’s ISP and Connectivity Provider Constituency (ISPCP) for years. As a representative of the ISPCP, eco Director Names & Numbers Thomas Rickert is a member of the GNSO Council (governing body of the Generic Names Supporting Organization).

eco has been instrumental in making the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg the heart of the Internet world: Together with DENIC eG and the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, eco will host the ICANN Annual General Meeting ICANN78 in Hamburg from 21 to 26 October and will offer a programme to accompany the conference.


All information on the programme and participation opportunities can be found online at: https://international.eco.de/events/icann78/accompanying-programme/.

Time Change as if by Magic: International Internet Governance Watches Over Correct Time