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My system uses the date format dd-MMM-yyyy. Most of the dates on SE/SO sites are formatted as MMM-dd-'yy.

Having only 'yy makes it especially hard to search for years. yyyy would make that a lot easier.

It would be really cool if this became user-configurable; I personally like the ISO 8601 format very much.

No matter what, the default should change; only about 33% of SE users are from the USA, and only about 20% of SO users are. So it makes sense to go for a form of DMY, as that is what most of the world uses.

Edit:
Statistics on date formatting demographics

  • Wait until localization is implemented... I think this request is a bit premature. – Jon Seigel Mar 8 '11 at 18:13
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    @Jon: I didn't know that localization was on the list of features to be implemented. – Jeroen Wiert Pluimers Mar 8 '11 at 21:50
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    As long as we have control over said localization... – MPelletier Apr 7 '11 at 19:10
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    @JonSeigel it has been 2 years since the question. Do you know about any progress on the localization front? – Jeroen Wiert Pluimers Mar 21 '13 at 12:56
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    I haven't been around Meta much as of late, but as far as I can tell, there hasn't been any movement at all. – Jon Seigel Mar 21 '13 at 13:17
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    "Wait until localization is implemented" isn't working. – Foo Bar Nov 23 '19 at 12:12
9

Please stop using weird date formats, it is very unfriendly and hard to read, specially the year! Having to do "mouseover" to understand the date is a big usability fail. Checking the date format by country you can see that most countries will find this MMM dd'YY format very weird.

Dates should all change to ISO style (YYYY-MM-DD HH:mm:ssZZ). They are simple and easy to read by everyone in all locales.

If you don't want to add the full date, use the browser locale or do a dynamic field, use HH:mm:ssZZ (without the YYYY-MM-DD) for the today posts, after that use YYYY-MM-DD and drop the HH:mm:ssZZ

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5

The minimum should be to display a full date. Showing '16 for the year is just pure evil.

The better option is to use the full ISO format. Probably without the seconds and Z. Maybe omit the date part for dates in today.

The best option is to allow the user to specify which style they prefer.

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4

The dates should be numerical, ordered and include the complete data. This makes it possible for humans and machines to parse it with minimal thought on the format.

There is no case to be made for using a regional format globally when the regional format fails on all the required fronts.

The YYYY-MM-DD HH:MM:SS format can be parsed by anyone because it cannot be misinterpreted. It may not be the regional one but it is unambiguous. It contains all the data and humans and machines are both able to ignore data that is not needed while they cannot extrapolate data that is not there. Stripping leading centuries makes sorting ambiguous, removing leading zeroes makes human tabulation and simple text sorting fail. Rearranging data with digit significance transposed destroys any semblance of data management. Using natural language month names or contractions of them is a slap in the face of ALL non native language users who have to use mental badwidth to determine the actual date. English natives would struggle with month names from almost any other language but the reverse affects even more people.

Default to the best and let users style as desired if so desired.

UI design should have fixed this long ago.

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    That format has a name. RFC <something>? There is also ISO 8601 (with the same properties). – P.Mort. - forgot Clay Shirky_q Nov 30 '19 at 2:41
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    @PeterMortensen Yes, the ISO format number is mentioned in the question and this is what makes it so sad. The dates are a mess and USA centric for no good reason. The problem is not a new one as this question is already 8 years old. – KalleMP Dec 2 '19 at 18:23
2

I think that the format you're referring to is only used in sentences, or fragments of sentences, like:

mar 1 at 20:48 (for the current year)
jan 26 '10 at 7:03 (for last year and before)

I'd favor 2010 rather than '10, but apart from that the above seems fine to me, given these are English sites. Writing "1 mar 2010 at 20:48" would feel odd to me.

In all other usage on these sites that I know of, it's yyyy-mm-dd, like in the tooltips:

2011-03-01 20:48:58Z
2010-01-26 07:03:14Z

The current usage is fine to me. I would object to writing "26012010" or even "26-01-2010" as that is too confusing for dates where both day and month are 12 or less, like "01022010".

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  • The format I see, is at each "answered" post not phrased like "answered ## hours ago" or "answered ## minutes ago". – Jeroen Wiert Pluimers Mar 8 '11 at 21:49
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    The USA is one of the few countries (but with a large population) that uses MDY; see the link in my question: almost all other countries use DMY or YMD. The UK for instance uses 1 March 2010 at 20:48. – Jeroen Wiert Pluimers Mar 8 '11 at 21:49
  • To me, "answered jan 26 '10 at 7:03" is even more a fragment of a sentence than the examples I gave, @Jeroen. (I mean: "answered 26-01-2010" or "answered 2010-01-26" would be far worse for display purposes, though that does not seem to be what you're asking for.) – Arjan Mar 8 '11 at 22:01
  • I'd favour "answered 2010-01-26 at 7:03" (luckily times on SO/SE are already in 24 hour format), but "answered jan 26 2010 at 7:03" would do for now. BTW: I know you can hover with your mouse over a date to get it in UTC (Zulu time), but that requires a manual intervention for each timestamp you are interested in. – Jeroen Wiert Pluimers Mar 9 '11 at 5:42
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    "1st Mar 2010 at 20:48" would be my preferred style for English flow. Why do you say it would feel odd to you? Surely that's the standard format in most varieties of English? – TRiG Mar 21 '13 at 11:06
2

There is no need to have it user-configurable on the sites. The easiest thing for the SE network to do is to format dates based on the browser's locale. There are hundreds of libraries to do this already and I would suspect the underlying code could handle the locale detection very easily.

As far as localization, SE could use the site GetLocalization.com to crowd source localization.

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  • There are good reasons to let people should what they want especially if it defaults to some language and region specific mixed significance series as it does now. The same reasons also make it unsuitable to select the locale as this does not describe the users native country (travelling worker) or even locale as they may be using a VPN for any number of reasons. – KalleMP Dec 2 '19 at 18:21

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