Looking at this question of mine, I see "asked yesterday" (which I really hate; I'd like to see an exact time specification rather than this vague one, especially in the list of questions). But it was not asked yesterday! When I hover over it to show the exact time, it shows it was actually the day before yesterday!

This snapshot was taken at 2012-03-31 15:00 UTC (plus or minus a few minutes):

"asked yesterday" with tooltip showing 2012-03-29 21:30:17Z

Whatever different opinions you may have on the implementation, yesterday is a word with a certain meaning. Redefining it is not a good idea. At least rephrase this as "1 day ago" or something.

  • 2
    I vote to change it to "asked more than 24 hours, but less than 48 hours ago".
    – a cat
    Commented Mar 31, 2012 at 15:13
  • 2
    I like the fuzzy dates. It makes things much more obvious.
    – Ry-
    Commented Mar 31, 2012 at 15:15
  • @lunboks, that would be really great :-) Maybe dumping seconds since epoch would be more comprehensible... :-)
    – Tomas
    Commented Mar 31, 2012 at 15:16
  • @minitech, if they are not too fuzzy or even buggy :-)
    – Tomas
    Commented Mar 31, 2012 at 15:17
  • 4
    The beauty of the "fuzzy" dates is that you have no idea who answered first and may have to chose the "best" answer instead. It helps stop the FGITW problem. Commented Mar 31, 2012 at 15:19
  • 1
    How about changing the timestamp to a date-seeded rand() function, running on the SO servers. Only Jon Skeet will be able to figure it out then.. Answered at 0.334232444812. Epoch seconds are too easy. Commented Mar 31, 2012 at 15:25
  • @Ben One mouse over later... Commented Mar 31, 2012 at 18:17
  • @CodeInChaos, hmm yes, forgot about that... mainly because I don't ever use it.... it's a layer of abstraction away still though. Commented Mar 31, 2012 at 18:19
  • 1
    If someone files another UTC time "bug" I'm going to go to their house and beat them with a giant clock
    – Zelda
    Commented Mar 31, 2012 at 19:51

1 Answer 1


I'd say this is

We're not all British, so using UTC/GMT for relative timings doesn't make much sense.

Instead, as @lunboks mentioned, "yesterday" means "more than 24hrs but less than 48hrs". This is yesterday for half the world.

Quick breakup:

  • Use "relative" yesterday: No prejudice, each time zone will agree with the "yesterday" half the time.
  • Use "absolute", UTC yesterday: Will work 100% of the time for Britain &co, 90% for nearby countries, and 0% for anyone on the opposite half of the world.

Though a good suggestion would be to grok the timezone of the user (either from the IP or from the usercard), and display "yesterday" relative to him/her.

Though I can picture the devs thinking "Yesterday--all my troubles seemed so far away..." on seeing this post. ;-)

  • 4
    Yesterday means yesterday. DOT.
    – Tomas
    Commented Mar 31, 2012 at 15:27
  • 11
    I don't mind if it's in the UTC or local timezone. But yesterday is still yesterday, regardless of time zone, and it will never be "more than 24hrs but less than 48hrs". Ugggggh!
    – Tomas
    Commented Mar 31, 2012 at 15:30
  • 4
    @Tomas It's NOT yesterday regardless of timezone. That's the point. Implementing something that shows yesterday correctly for all users will require some additional code checking the timezone of each user. And a lot of work for the devs if the date parsers are not centralized(which is why I referred to the Beatles song). Commented Mar 31, 2012 at 15:41
  • 5
    Except in Iceland. It's always Friday in Iceland. Commented Mar 31, 2012 at 15:54
  • 2
    I would not want that every question and answer from the past 24 hours would start saying "yesterday" exactly at midnight.
    – JJJ
    Commented Mar 31, 2012 at 15:57
  • @Juhana: Yeah, I really don't care one way or the other, though I wouldn't like it if it was changed to a UTC-based system. I'm fine with the current "24-48 hours" system, it gives a good sense of time. Especially to people like me(you as well?) who don't have--well-- regular sleep patterns. I don't mind particularly if it's changed to the timezone-specific system either--I never check out the date that much anyway.. What's so important about the time anyways? You just need to know if a post was posted recently or not, don't you? Much ado about nothing I feel :/ Commented Mar 31, 2012 at 16:16
  • 3
    I just want to say that yesterday is a word with certain meaning. Redefining it is not a good idea.
    – Tomas
    Commented Mar 31, 2012 at 16:31
  • @Tomas Which is why I suggested the 'timezone-specific' yesterday--but it seems you have some opposition--see Juhana's comment. :/ Commented Mar 31, 2012 at 16:46
  • 1
    @Juhana 's comment is not really in contradiction with what I say - there could still be the "6 hours ago"-like vague time used instead when it's newer than X hours.
    – Tomas
    Commented Mar 31, 2012 at 17:20
  • 1
    As for your the timezone-specific proposal, that would be the best solution of course. But at least stop abusing the word "yesterday" would be enough.
    – Tomas
    Commented Mar 31, 2012 at 17:25
  • @Tomas I agree with Juhana. I am maybe an extreme example, but my daily routine does not follow what is generally considered a day in my timezone at all. I really like working at night, also 24 hour day is sometimes too short and I switch to 26 or 28 hours. Different people find different meanings of words natural, intuitive. A friend of mine calls “home” the place she sleeps at on the day. I do not find using yesterday the way it is used here as counterintuitive. For me it is better than “1 day ago”.
    – Palec
    Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 11:03
  • 5
    Given that the system is clearly able to show things like “38 mins ago” and “3 hours ago”, wouldn’t it make things a lot easier if it would just continue doing that for a bit longer? I.e. “29 hours ago”, or “36 hours ago”. Of course that doesn’t fit into our day-centric mind, but “yesterday” meaning up to 48 hours ago does not do that either.
    – poke
    Commented Feb 7, 2014 at 10:16
  • 6
    I really disagree with this answer. You say yesterday will be wrong with someone somewhere at some point so why not have 1 day ago?
    – Notts90
    Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 8:47
  • 1
    @Notts90: Or 2 days ago Commented Jul 14, 2017 at 17:38
  • I consider this a stupid "design". This bug is probably not important enough to ever be fixed correctly. But it leaves a negative impression of the quality of this service. (You can't beat psychology.) Let's just say, localisation in any form is not wanted around here. We all speak English, and we all have to calculate in UTC (and accept wrong abbreviations even for UTC which is just one hour away from me).
    – ygoe
    Commented Nov 28, 2021 at 13:53

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