Time Zones and XML-RPC

I have had to hack the Apache xmlrpc library to add support for specifying the TimeZone of the remote server. I'll post the patch there as soon as I am happy with it.

I have to say though that I am very surprised that code that has been out there for such a long time has not had such a patch applied to it yet. Of course that something so hyped as XML-RPC has such a fundamental deficiency - that it forces dates to be sent without the time zone information - is itself mind boggling. How could anyone invent a protocol for remote communication and screw up dates so badly? Essentially this means that unless you know what time zone the server is in or you live in the same time zone as the server, all dates exchanges are meaningless. To illustrate: imagine you are speaking to someone on the phone and ask them what time it is. They tell you "8 o'clock". If you don't know where they are in the world that answer will simply be meaningless. Well that is what xml-rpc forces one to do! Would it have been difficult to add time zone information? Not at all. 4 characters more in an xml file.

Comments:

I know this problem is the root of the BlogEd date/time posting when we are east of the Rockies. I am living in the same TZ as you and watch this as well :-) Do you know if the same problem is present in Sun's JAX-RPC libs ? and, by the way, why did the BlogEd community choose Apache's implementation instead of Sun's ? Thanks !

Posted by Sebastien Stormacq on June 30, 2005 at 05:00 PM CEST #

As I understand it, jax-rpc does not at all support xml-rpc as described by xmlrpc.com. I guess that xmlrpc was the initial spur to the development of SOAP and the web services stacks.

xml-rpc is clearly a first version of something. But the MetaWeblog API and the blogger API that are widely deployed have been built on the xmlrpc stack. So we decided to implement what was widely available. Sadly these APIs are themselves even more flawed than xmlrpc. The whole thing just about works. But that's it.

The Atom project is one project whose aim is to rectify the problems found in the MetaWeblog API. It is also trying to move away from the rpc nature of the above API and more towards the basis of the web itself as descibed by Roy Fielding's doctorate on REST (Representational State Transfer). I have read that SOAP could be used in a RESTful manner, so they may not be completely incompatible. But everything I have seen of xml-rpc does make me think that it is fundamentally flawed. And the rpc nature of it may be just the most fundamental problem.

Posted by Henry Story on June 30, 2005 at 10:54 PM CEST #

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