What’s wrong with Java Date & Time API? [closed]

Ah, the Java Date class. Perhaps one of the best examples of how not to do something in any language, anywhere. Where do I begin?

Reading the JavaDoc might lead one to think that the developers have actually got some good ideas. It goes on about the difference between UTC and GMT at length, despite the fact that the difference between the two is basically leap seconds (which happen pretty rarely).

However, the design decisions really lay to waste any thought of being a well designed API. Here are some of the favourite mistakes:

  • Despite being designed in the last decade of the millennium, it rates years as two digits since 1900. There are literally millions of workarounds doing 1900+ (or 1900-) in the Java world as a result of this banal decision.
  • Months are zero indexed, to cater for the spectacularly unusual case of having an array-of-months and not living with a thirteen element array, the first of which containing a null. As a result, we have 0..11 (and today being month 11 of the year 109). There are a similar number of ++ and — on the months in order to convert to a string.
  • They’re mutable. As a result, any time you want to give a date back (say, as an instance structure) you need to return a clone of that date instead of the date object itself (since otherwise, people can mutate your structure).
  • The Calendar, designed to ‘fix’ this, actually makes the same mistakes. They’re still mutable.
  • Date represents a DateTime, but in order to defer to those in SQL land, there’s another subclass java.sql.Date, which represents a single day (though without a timezone associated with it).
  • There are no TimeZones associated with a Date, and so ranges (such as a ‘whole day’) are often represented as a midnight-midnight (often in some arbitrary timezone)

Finally, it’s worth noting that leap seconds generally correct themselves against a good system clock which is updated with ntp within an hour (see links above). The chance of a system being still up and running in the introduction of two leap seconds (every six months minimum, every few years practically) is pretty unlikely, especially considering the fact that you have to redeploy new versions of your code from time to time. Even using a dynamic language which regenerates classes or something like a WAR engine will pollute the class space and run out of permgen eventually.

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