ISO 8601 and the horrible "T"

Misha Wolf (misha.wolf@reuters.com)
Fri, 27 Jun 1997 18:36:37 +0000 (GMT)


Date: Fri, 27 Jun 1997 18:36:37 +0000 (GMT)
From: Misha Wolf <misha.wolf@reuters.com>
Subject: ISO 8601 and the horrible "T"
In-Reply-To: 
To: Time Zones <tz@elsie.nci.nih.gov>, meta2 <meta2@mrrl.lut.ac.uk>,
        www-html <www-html@w3.org>
Message-Id: <7037361827061997/A09326/REDMS2/11B6DCA42500*@MHS>

Stu Weibel has given me permission to quote from his private mail:

> Where you have YYYY-MM-DDThh:mm-hh:mm, is it possible to interpose a
> seperator other than T that makes it clearer to the human eye where 
> the date ends and Time begins?  I suspect the answer to this is that 
> such a separator would knock the profile out of whack with 8601, but 
> I thought I'd ask anyhow.

The "T" is, I think, the most despised aspect of the ISO 8601 standard
but I think we're stuck with it.  Some relevant quotes from the
standard:

   [T] is used as a time designator to indicate the start of the 
   representation of the time of day in combined date and time of day 
   expressions;

   The space character shall not be used in the representations.

The only suggestion I have seen for getting rid of the "T" is a kind of
trick: We say that we are representing not a "combined date and time"
but rather a separate date and a time.  We then place them next to each
other, separated by our favourite character.  If "*" represents our
favourite character, we get:

   1994-11-05*08:15:30-05:00

instead of:

   1994-11-05T08:15:30-05:00

The problem with this solution is precisely that it is a trick.  In
reality, we are dealing with a single date-with-time and it confuses
things to pretend that we're not.  Also, there must be lots of software
out there which is ISO 8601-conformant and would choke on our favourite
character.

I suggest we decide that this stuff isn't primarily for human
consumption and make use of it, warts and all.

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