Stack Exchange uses the UTC time zone, which is confusing for users who are based in other locations.

For instance, if I'm checking a user's actions, the timestamp may say something like Mar 1 at 16:27

Except that 16:27 may not have been the actual time at which the user performed the action; it's just the time according to UTC.

I would like it if users were allowed to choose their own time zones in the settings so that the timestamps and dates are more subjective.

  • 7
    The advantage to UTC is ... its simple.There's no daylight savings time - which means the same time can't happen twice or not at all, no need to keep track/retrieve what the local time zone is or convert. Servers also use it internally, and the timestamps indicate its zulu or UTC time anyway. Commented Mar 5, 2023 at 0:24
  • 1
    Note: There's no need for users to explicitly specify their timezone in their settings for the site. If it was desired to have timestamps displayed in the appropriate timezone for the user's locale, then there are stock conversion routines available as a basic part of JavaScript in all browsers. So, such conversion from the UTC timestamps can be performed in the browser based on the user's browser/system settings without the user needing to do anything special for SE sites.
    – Makyen
    Commented Mar 5, 2023 at 1:46

1 Answer 1


It may be a bit confusing, but is it really necessary for users to be able to choose their own time zone? I can't think of any practical benefits to this, nor any situation in which you would ever need it. It would be nice, maybe, but certainly not necessary.

As it is, I'm pretty sure that timestamps are used mainly only in situations where two similar answers have been posted- then, others can see which answer was posted first (in cases of significant overlap). There's no issue in calculating this using the times in UTC, as the comparison is equally doable. Plus, most interactions with posts happen within the first 24 hours of their being posted, and it's during that time that (instead of a date/time), it just says asked/answered x hours/minutes ago or asked/answered yesterday.

And, there are at least two problems that I can think of here: the rep-leagues and the rep-cap. If each user's week, month, or year starts at a different time, there'd obviously be an inconsistency. And what would un-logged-in users see when they visit the 'top users' page?

As for the rep-cap, that's even stickier. I may have hit the rep-cap by getting 250 rep in the UTC day, but maybe I only got 190 in Central time. And, users could change their time zone to game the system: they could set a time zone where they don't lose rep from the cap, or they could set a time where they do hit the cap (for progress towards the Legendary/Epic/Mortarboard badges).

The only other thing that would be affected by subjective time zones are the Enthusiast/Fanatic badges, but even those aren't going to change that much. The point of those, as @Grace Note explains, isn't about the metric itself.

That's what makes it a Fanatic. It's not just for someone who simply pops in once a day for 100 days straight. The people who are in the best shape to earn this badge are the people who visit the site repeatedly throughout the day. People who are interested in seeing what's going on at the site, and perhaps shooting for participation as well. People who don't even have to watch the days tick by to try for this badge. The point isn't to tell people to just pop in once per day - it's to get people invested in wanting to know how the site is growing, and what is happening.

So there would be no actual advantage to the change, as far as I can tell.

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