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We have released an update to the way in which we render dates in the UI across the network.

Up until now, whenever a date that included the year was rendered (which would typically be for dates earlier than the current calendar year), we would only show the last two digits of the year (for example: Jul 15 '09).

While the apostrophe-two-digit year format was originally put into place for the sake of brevity, we have found out through user research that this two-digit date format can be confusing to some users, especially to those who have learned English as a second language.

The change presented here is being put into place to address this, with the hope of making dates clearer to all users, without sacrificing significant space in the process (trading one apostrophe for two digits). So the date above is now presented as Jul 15 2009.

Nothing else has changed as part of this, including showing all dates in UTC, the format of date tooltips, or the way that we abbreviate months. Also, the date format has not been changed at all on the international sites.

We're happy to receive your feedback or address any questions/concerns about this change.

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  • 10
    Cue incoming bug reports about alignment/overflow – should they be posted as answers here?
    – Glorfindel Mod
    Feb 8, 2022 at 8:58
  • 10
    Fine as answers here for a week. Hopefully there wont be so many. Feb 8, 2022 at 8:59
  • 27
    Excellent. We're safe till the year 10000 Feb 8, 2022 at 9:08
  • 5
    Yes it was confusing and yes I like it
    – CreaZyp154
    Feb 8, 2022 at 9:21
  • 1
    Fun fact: a long time ago, there was a bug rendering dates in some system notices, so this existed for a while, but was removed. Feb 8, 2022 at 18:07
  • 2
    I mean... i'm not against this change by any means, but what user research would have even brought this up? Are users actually reaching out and saying they're confused about the date of all things? in what way?
    – Kevin B
    Feb 8, 2022 at 21:01
  • 3
    @KevinB it was mentioned as a cause of confusion by a number of users in user research for Outdated Answers. Feb 8, 2022 at 21:03
  • 2
    @KevinB they surprisingly do a lot: one, two, three, four (the old responses to the last one are ironic given today's change grounds that the format is confusing). P.S. I have to note that being an ESL speaker has nothing to do with the format being confusing - it's just not how the rest of the world operates. With the 'yy out of the way, can we also fix the MMM dd part, pretty please? :) Feb 8, 2022 at 21:25
  • 1
    That is great news! For example, suspension periods are now disambiguated (hover does not work for those). Feb 9, 2022 at 18:20
  • 1
    Not sure if it's related to this change, but in Stack Overflow in Portuguese, dates prior to last year are being displayed in a wrong format. Ex: "9/06y2014" for June 9th, 2014 (specially this "y" before the year is quite strange). This is reported in per-site meta, if you need more details.
    – hkotsubo
    Feb 18, 2022 at 14:11
  • It's been three weeks since this announcement was posted. Should we now begin posting feedback as new questions? Mar 1, 2022 at 20:06
  • yes, new questions now please Mar 1, 2022 at 20:17
  • Couldn't the user's locale be used instead? I'm forever doing somersaults in my head whenever I see months before days. Jul 15, 2023 at 13:44

4 Answers 4

22

Please add a comma before the year, I believe it will make reading the date easier.

So, from this:

date as it showing now

To this instead:

date with a comma before the year

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  • 7
    Another alternative is to change the order which obviates the need for any punctuation, and has the bonus feature of putting things in order from smallest to largest unit: 21 Aug 2018
    – LShaver
    Feb 9, 2022 at 15:57
  • 1
    Yes, this. Not just easier to read but traditional American English standard.
    – cde
    Feb 10, 2022 at 0:43
  • 3
    Using 21 Aug 2018 could be confusing on /questions page for old questions, because the rendered output is <avatar> <user> <rep> <date>, e.g. user123456 550 21 Aug 2018 at 21:16. Adding the action label (such as in the home page) would improve a little: user123456 550 asked 21 Aug 2018 at 21:16 Feb 11, 2022 at 12:04
  • 5
    This change is now live Feb 18, 2022 at 13:59
21

Display the date before the month in locales that use date‑month‑year dates

As you stated, the goal of the change is to make dates clearer for users who are rough in English.

A significant amount (most I think) of these users come from locales which list the day of the month before the month (European format), and would be confused if the month was listed before the day (American format).

As such, I recommend that, if the goal is to make dates less confusing, that the system only render dates in the current month‑date‑year format in locales where the American date format is used, and in others, use date‑month‑year format (e.g. "8 Feb 2022"). Or, if this answer is to be implemented, use the latter format everywhere.

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  • 19
    I feel like most humans around the world are used to the format "day-month-year", but maybe I am biased.
    – Dharman
    Feb 8, 2022 at 19:47
  • 4
    We'll consider this - but at this point will almost certainly need to go with one format for everyone (not getting into custom locale displays per user at this point). Feb 9, 2022 at 10:01
  • 8
    And while we are at it: What about YYYY-MM-DD? I've seen that too. Feb 9, 2022 at 10:07
  • @YaakovEllis what about letting users choose the format in their settings? (Regardless of their locale, so at least to me sounds somewhat more simple to implement.) Feb 13, 2022 at 11:16
  • 2
    @ShadowWizardHatesOmicron it could of course be done. Just touches a ton of stuff. And in general, we prefer not to add lots of user prefs, especially for display stuff. Feb 13, 2022 at 19:35
  • @YaakovEllis oh, case of "תנו לו אצבע והוא ירצה את כל היד"? This make sense, if this will be done, lots of other people with request for new preference will cry "Hey, you did this, so why not my request?!". Feb 14, 2022 at 7:55
  • 2
    We are going to go with the "comma" solution (next answer down). Feb 14, 2022 at 20:35
  • 1
    I'm from a country that uses day-month-year, but month-day-year is very clear when the month is written as a word rather than a number. This honestly is a non-issue
    – ert
    Feb 24, 2022 at 12:07
6

Chat still uses the old date formats

This doesn't seem to have been implemented in the chat sites. The old date format of displaying only the last two digits with an apostrophe is still being used in chat. Some examples:

  • Oneboxed chat messages:

    Oneboxed messages

  • Chat search results:

    Search results

  • Chat transcripts:

    Transcript date window

...and probably a bunch of other places.

I understand that old oneboxes cannot be updated to use the new format because the HTML for the onebox is rendered at the time the messages are posted, with the date format in effect at the time. However, please fix it for newer oneboxes, as well as for the other places in the chat system.

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  • Date's aren't the only thing broken about oneboxes...
    – Luuklag
    Feb 9, 2022 at 10:35
  • 1
    @YaakovEllis This was fixed in most places, but not fixed for the calendar images in transcripts. Will those also be changed? Feb 23, 2022 at 21:17
-1

I'd rather this be reverted, preferably, since the UTC datetime was already available on hover.

If reversion won't be considered, please add delineation of some kind between the different date columns or reorder the columns. The lack of any kind of punctuation between the day of the month and the year now is confusing and hard to read.

Or better yet, show it as a UTC date (no time):

  • 2009-07-15

It can show a full, localized/friendly date on hover instead (like "July 07, 2009" or "07 July 2009") since you're swapping the direction (e.g. previously it showed short friendly date on the page and showed UTC on hover).

If you don't like that, then here are some options:

Or switch to DD MMM YYYY, even for US-based visitors:

  • 15 Jul 2009

Any of the several options listed above would be better than the current change, in my opinion.

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  • 22
    the UTC datetime was already available on hover. Means nothing for mobile users, plus it's not immediately clear that it can be hovered over on desktop. Feb 8, 2022 at 18:05
  • Do you want them to switch to week year? :) Feb 8, 2022 at 18:07
  • 1
    @SonictheAnti-NewVariant-hog I'm not a mobile user. Reverting it is simply my preference as a desktop user. Luckily, the other ~90% of the answer covers alternatives that do work fine for mobile users.
    – TylerH
    Feb 8, 2022 at 18:16
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    Several good formats above, but I'd much prefer the new display to the old one. Feb 8, 2022 at 18:19
  • 14
    I don't agree with your first sentence, but I fully agree ISO 8601 date would be looking much better.
    – Dharman
    Feb 8, 2022 at 19:50
  • 3
    The change marked status-completed (comma in between month and year) is now live. Feb 18, 2022 at 14:00

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