Disappearing dates

A trend that seems to be accelerating in the last few years is the disappearance of dates from the internet. So far I haven’t seen it on news sites, but I see it more often on private corporate communication, blogs, and other lightly trafficked publications. I’ve heard rumors of some corporate sites removing the date after a set period of time, or even running periodic scripts to change the date to the present.

Some news websites, like The Guardian, display the date in a surprisingly inconspicuous position: on a sidebar, in small grey text, beneath the journalist byline. The newest variants of social media, like TikTok, remove the the date entirely from main screens. Older apps like Facebook may not go that far, but they do prefer to count time in terms of distance from the present (“9 seconds ago”).

The internet was never really designed to be an archive. Even more, I doubt its designers could have conceived that the modern web, in all its various media streams, would become the place where large numbers of people “spend” the waking day, and that what people paid the most attention to online would effectively be live action.

If the date continues to disappear from the most populous places on the web, maybe it will be because the only date that matters on the internet is now. There is so much written online about the news today today, not because there is so much happening, but because when the standard is “right now,” it is never too soon to start catching up. Then even the news sites could dispense with the date.

Tags time web_design disappearance archive