As I've looked through questions Stack Overflow recently, I've noticed that recently asked questions use relative time (posted yesterday or last edited 2 days ago), which is fine. Yet if I find an older question, I'm given a fuller date range like Sep 20 '11 at 20:55.

Why is the specific time given on older questions but not on newer questions? Couldn't the time stamp use relative time plus the hour, minute it was posted? An example would be posted yesterday at 12:05pm.

  • 4
    Given that all times have their exact timestamp in their tooltip to begin with, I've never found this to be much of an issue. – Tim Stone Dec 5 '13 at 20:53
  • possible duplicate of Add time to "yesterday" questions/answers – Tim Stone Dec 5 '13 at 20:54
  • @TimStone I read that post. The answer is running a user script? That's not a) an explanation for why it is the way it is or b) solving the problem. – Hynes Dec 5 '13 at 21:00
  • 1
    If Stack Exchange doesn't even know what the reason is, I'd recommend removing the status-bydesign tag from that question, then. But I assume Jeff's original reasoning was that the text is simply too long and the tooltip is sufficient if you actually need that granularity. As to point b), that's irrelevant to me closing this as a duplicate. – Tim Stone Dec 5 '13 at 21:04
  • @TimStone -- I'm sure someone at SE knows. I've only been on staff ~6mo. But instead of asking internally, I asked here. Concerning the other question, a reason wasn't given by Jeff as to why the difference exists. – Hynes Dec 5 '13 at 21:14
  • My guess: because for recent posts it matters that they are recent; for older posts 'a week/month/year ago' no longer means much and loses granularity, thus an absolute date is more useful. That's just a guess though. – Martijn Pieters Dec 6 '13 at 1:27

I think Jeff is the only one who can give the real reason, he wrote the code himself back in the early days of Stack Overflow, asking for help himself.

I can only make assumptions using my common sense and own opinions.

My best guess what Jeff was thinking is that showing relative time save trouble of different time zones for recent posts. If you show "asked 10:30" the user need to start thinking "wait, what time zone? That's GMT+0 so what is it in my local time?" so having only "asked 5 minutes ago" is more timezone friendly.

Keeping in mind we can't define our time zone on Stack Exchange it's only strengthening my theory, if we had timezone the page could show the exact time of post in our local time.


From what I've always understood it's to give answers a more level playing field in the first few days. The date is always there for the truly interested (or the arguments that invariably crop up).

If you have 2 answers that are both, to the casual observer, posted "yesterday" or "1 hour ago" you're more likely to be forced to evaluate the answers on their relative merits. The perception that someone got there "first" and is therefore deserving of reputation for answering is a strong perception to break. I'd rather that the best answer, even if it takes an hour longer to appear, is the one that gets recognised.

I think this system helps with that. Not much, but a bit.

I'm sure I read that this was the reason somewhere but my MSO search fu is deserting me.

  • I can kind of understand that for recent posts. I don't necessarily agree, but that's not what I'm trying to figure out right now. My follow-up would be then why add HH:MM to later questions? – Hynes Dec 5 '13 at 21:49
  • Because it matters less over time @Hynes. The majority of the action happens in the first 24 hours so there's less reason to obfuscate after that time. – ben is uǝq backwards Dec 5 '13 at 21:57

That will be better. But you always can see the exact time by hovering over the date.


  • Only on the question list have I seen that hover: cl.ly/image/0t2o2Y3q470I Also it's hiding content within a hover. – Hynes Dec 5 '13 at 20:55
  • Ok -- seeing that now. Still you have to hover over it for a second or so before it pops up. AND it's hiding content that in older questions is being exposed. I want to know why. – Hynes Dec 5 '13 at 20:57
  • @Hynes: I didn't understand, what you mean by it's hiding content that in older questions is being exposed. – Midhun MP Dec 5 '13 at 21:00
  • In older posts, all that data is shown: month day year HH:MM. In newer questions that data is being hidden within a tooltip. – Hynes Dec 5 '13 at 21:02
  • @Hynes: I can't say an exact reason. But saying yesterday or 2 days ago is ok than saying 13 days ago (Probably that can be the reason of including timestamps for older posts). StackExchange team members can explain this much better than me, I think :) But your suggestion is Good (Me too think adding time like that) – Midhun MP Dec 5 '13 at 21:08

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