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[whatwg] Timing API proposal for measuring intervals

From: Ojan Vafai <ojan@chromium.org>
Date: Thu, 7 Jul 2011 18:47:54 -0700
Message-ID: <CANMdWTuN_t9C9jQRZydK9WXdPW4hdhuTwav5idRmO3i8_U085w@mail.gmail.com>
On Thu, Jul 7, 2011 at 6:15 PM, James Robinson <jamesr at google.com> wrote:

> PROBLEM
>
> It is not possible to accurately measure time intervals using existing web
> platform APIs, or to specify times at a given interval from the current
> time.  Date.now() and DOM timestamps are inadequate for this purpose, see
> <sectiontitle> below for reasons why this is so.
>
> USE CASES
>
> 1.) When updating an imperative animation state from script, authors need
> to
> know how much time has elapsed in the animation so far in order to properly
> update the animation.
>
> 2.) When synchronizing imperative animation updates with audio, authors
> need
> to know how much time has elapsed in the animation and in the audio
> sample's
> progression and be able to schedule future audio cues to specific points in
> the animation.
>
> 3.) When measuring the time that a given operation has taken (for example,
> a
> network request or a application process), authors need to be able to
> measure the amount of time elapsed from script.
>
> ISSUES WITH EXISTING APIS
>
> In ECMAScript the Date object is typically used for timing.  It is defined
> (in ES-262 5th edition section 15.9.1.1) as representing milliseconds since
> the unix epoch, Jan 1 1970 00:00:00 UTC, ignoring leap seconds.  DOM
> timestamps are defined in a similar way, although it doesn't seem to
> specify
> anything about leap seconds.  In practice, implementations depend on the
> system clock for these APIs and are likely to use the same implementation
> for both.  This poses a problem whenever the system clock is adjusted.  In
> all implementations I tested, Date.now() varies whenever the system clock
> is
> adjusted.  This means that, for example, the following snippet:
>
> var start = Date.now();
> dosomething();
> window.alert(Date.now() - start);
>
> may alert a positive number, negative number, or zero if the system clock
> is
> adjusted in between the two calls to Date.now().  Similarly, timestamps
> from
> a series of DOM events may be increasing, decreasing, or unchanging if the
> system clock adjusts in between event dispatches.  System clock adjustments
> are not as rare as you might thing, many systems are configured to receive
> clock updates over the network via NTP or similar systems.  When developing
> and implementing the navigation timing spec we ran in to many reported time
> intervals from users in the wild that were bogus in one way or another,
> either negative (easily detectable) or artificially inflated (very
> difficult
> to detect).  I've put a simple test page up here:
> http://webstuff.nfshost.com/timers.html.
>
> Additionally, there's a practical concern that querying the system clock on
> some systems is more expensive and/or less reliable than other timing APIs.
>  On windows, for instance, GetSystemTimeAsFileTime() has a resolution of
> ~15.5ms, so browsers use a combination of GetSystemTimeAsFileTime() with
> higher-resolution timing APIs like QueryPerformanceCounter() that provide
> better resolution but are not affected by adjustments to the system clock.
>  See http://drdobbs.com/windows/184416651?pgno=1 and
> https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=363258 for some background
> information.
>
> PROPOSAL
>
> I propose that we add a new attribute to the Window interface that provides
> a monotonic, uniformly increasing timestamp suitable for interval
> measurements.
>
> <bikeshed-topic>
> partial interface Window {
>  readonly attribute double monotonicTime;
> };
> </bikeshed-topic>
>
> <bikeshed-topic>
> I propose that monotonicTime be defined as the number of milliseconds
>

<bikeshed-nit>
Is milliseconds sufficient? Could we use seconds and encourage
implementations to do decimal values? Would be nice to support microseconds
on most modern hardware.
</bikeshed-nit>


> elapsed since the window creation.  There is likely to be no meaningful
> relationship between the value exposed by this interval and a date and time
> in the past (such as the unix epoch), so starting at zero seems a good at
> choice as any.
> </bikeshed-topic>
>
> I do not believe we can change the meaning of Date.now() in ECMAScript
> since
> the current behavior has existing for a very long time and is genuinely
> useful when the author wants to know the system clock's current value, for
> example in a calendar type application.
>
> RELATIONSHIP TO EXISTING WORK, IMPLEMENTATION NOTES
>
> The setTimeout() and setInterval() algorithms (
>
> http://www.whatwg.org/specs/web-apps/current-work/multipage/timers.html#timers
> )
> implicitly depend on a uniformly monotonic clock in the various "wait for X
> milliseconds" phase, since there is no allowance in this text for
> adjustments to the system clock to change when the timer actually fires.
>  All browsers except for WebKit ignore system clock changes for timer
> scheduling, and the WebKit behavior is a bug which I plan to fix.
>
> The Web Perf WG has run into similar issues and defined a monotonic clock
> as
> part of the Navigation Timing API:
>
> http://dvcs.w3.org/hg/webperf/raw-file/tip/specs/NavigationTiming/Overview.html#mono-clock
> .
>  This clock is very similar to the above proposal but is not exposed
> directly to authors.  I expect that implementations of the Navigation
> Timing
> API would use the same mechanism to implement this proposal.
>
> The proposed Web Audio API (
>
> http://chromium.googlecode.com/svn/trunk/samples/audio/specification/specification.html#AudioContext-section
> )
> exposes
> a timestamp on the AudioContext interface that is defined to map to a
> monotonic uniformly increasing hardware timestamp.
>
> - James
>
Received on Thursday, 7 July 2011 18:47:54 UTC

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