Fw: Time Zone Names

Markus Kuhn Markus.Kuhn at cl.cam.ac.uk
Sun Oct 4 10:23:06 UTC 1998

Paul Eggert wrote on 1998-10-02 20:51 UTC:
> True, but the 2-letter country codes are _much_ better known
> (especially now that they're part of Internet domain names), and they
> are much more common in most application areas served by POSIX and the
> ISO C standard.  If you're going to use an ISO-based approach for
> locations, then the 2-letter codes are clearly the way to go.
> The 3-digit codes are not stable either, as locations change hands
> (the breakup of the Soviet Union being a recent example of wholesale
> reassignments).  Since complete stability is impossible, we have to
> judge whether the 3-digit codes' slight increase in stability
> compensates for the increased number of user (and/or programmer)
> errors that are inevitable with numerical codes.  In my view, the
> tradeoff is decisively in favor of the familiar alphabetic codes.

The numeric and alpha codes have very different purposes: the alpha code
identifies more or less the name of a country, while the numeric code
identifies its territory. Identification of the territory is highly
relevant for statistical applications, because per-country statistics
become incomparable if the territory changes (see German reunification
as a good example). The ISO 3166 numeric codes are just the codes used
by the UN statistics office.

Identification of the territory of countries might actually be slighly
more relevant to tz applications than identifications of names of
countries (see also the hacks related to "mainland France").


Markus G. Kuhn, Security Group, Computer Lab, Cambridge University, UK
email: mkuhn at acm.org,  home page: <http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~mgk25/>

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