the concept of "time" on the Web

*draft 2*

The Web is unlike television, watching movies, reading a book, or writing content — with each there's a definite start, stop, and length. The Web isn't as clear and it has multiple concepts of time, various content with different time requirements (text, images, videos) and time concepts abound and are unpredictable.

Here's an attempt to categorize the different time concepts and possible solutions for attempting to make more sense around time. There's potential to surface these different concepts within a browser to make users aware of the concepts of time for various applications and services.

We'll look at: Real Time, Day Parting, Temp, Archives, Time Zones.

Real-Time aka Right Now

There are certain applications that are real time:

  • content notifiers: stock tickers, live scoreboard
  • music and video streaming
  • eBay, stock and other bank transactions, purchasing transactions
  • instant messaging

The use of meta-refresh was a method to establish "real-time" but it's also a method to boost page views. Users don't like their pages being refreshed automatically unless it's for a very good reason e.g. live scoreboards.
Real-time apps used to be premium applications but some still are. Depending on the app, probably could get away with charging for the service.
One of the metrics around real-time apps is simultaneous usage measured by concurrent users.

Users expect applications to be real time and for transactions to post real time. If an application is not real time, the application provider will or should note the length of time e.g. updates every 15 minutes.

Day Parting

Many web sites are implementing day parting even "week parting" (which isn't a term). Day parting is splitting up the content for the day for example news in the morning, leisure type programming in the afternoon or evenings. For "week parting" it's programming for the week for example, Yahoo!'s Tech Tuesdays or their Friday programming getting people ready for the weekend. Sites that use day parting are AOL homepage, Yahoo! homepage, c|Net
Why day parting is used:

  • Give users an anchor to establish a general time e.g. it's morning or afternoon
  • Generate different ad opportunities by splitting a specific page by time/theme
  • Attempt to train users to come back later or a certain day
  • To match the overall time curve on the web where 9amEST – 1pm EST is peak, somewhat of an attempt to normalize the time curve so that it's all peak usage
  • To match and attempt to normalize the week curve where Tues – Thurs is peak usage and Fri – Sun is a major drop-off

Day parting is based on Eastern (Daylight) Standard Time and not based on individual time zones, in other words not custom tailored to your time zone.

Day parting is usually driven by an editorial/programming team. Sites like and Google News may get day parted automatically given the content that's available on the Web.

Unless it's published or clear e.g. a Tech Tuesday, users will not recognize day parting.

Temp or For this Session

There are many times when

Archives aka Always and Forever

Web archives. Articles, permanent links. When will a web page/site disappear completely. How do you purge the Web of obsolete content e.g. my Bed and Breakfast went out of business purge me from the Web, I no longer exist

Timezone Effects

The story with announcing Survivor winners to a late timezone.


Alerts and when you expect people to respond to email. When will people update their web sites (immediately? the next morning? the next week?) How do you program people to keep coming. Newsletters.
The Concept of a "Browser Session"
Authentication, browser sessions.

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