nanosecond precise web or http timeserver

explanation / discussion

I can't find a simple nano-second precise http / web timeserver, so it's past time to make one. Here it is. The "nanoseconds" link above shows you the number of nanoseconds in the "UNIX Epoch," or since Jan 1, 1970 at 00:00 GMT / UTC. I get "nanotime()" from my brand-new PHP extension.

The "chronyc tracking" link above is the output of the Linux command of the same name. Here is a run:

$ chronyc tracking
Reference ID    : A9FEA97B (
Stratum         : 4
Ref time (UTC)  : Tue Oct 13 23:53:17 2020
System time     : 0.000012590 seconds fast of NTP time
Last offset     : +0.000010085 seconds
RMS offset      : 0.000012630 seconds
Frequency       : 67.112 ppm fast
Residual freq   : +0.000 ppm
Skew            : 0.010 ppm
Root delay      : 0.000361930 seconds
Root dispersion : 0.000279937 seconds
Update interval : 521.4 seconds
Leap status     : Normal

Assuming chrony's functioning / output / parameters are in order (see below), my server is extremely accurate. As I'm writing this, and as you see, Kwynn.com's server shows "0.000012590 seconds fast of NTP time" or 0.013ms or 13us (micro).

The chronyc output will show a "Reference ID" / time server of That's an Amazon Web Services (AWS) time server. That server is stratum 4 where an atomic clock is stratum 0 and NIST servers are stratum 1. However, given that the AWS time server is probably in the same building as kwynn.com, and given that the AWS us-east-1 locations are in northern Virginia, very close to the NIST servers in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and given that AWS has great network connectivity, inside and out, I get very accurate "Root delay" and "Root dispersion," which are measures of accuracy.

With that said, as an end user, your receiving that accuracy is a whole other matter. That's what Network Time Protocol (NTP) and chrony is all about. In other words, there is likely at least a 30 - 40ms round trip network delay (see my web ping). I am not claiming that nanosecond precision on the web is particularly practical, but the fact that I couldn't easy find it--for whatever *it* is worth--annoyed me. With *that* said, I would imagine one could get close to NTP precision if one tried, given my web source.

For the record, before I found chrony, I did some previous work on getting NTP time in PHP: live and source code. Also for the record, I ran ntp "daemons" (ntpd) in Linux years ago--perhaps back to 2005--but those didn't have such lovely output as chrony does.

Also, I've already done a lot of parsing of chronyc's output. Future work will likely be to make this available in various forms, rather than just the raw form.

validating chrony / false positive

If you boot a machine with no network access, you get something like this:

$ chronyc tracking
Reference ID    : 00000000 ()
Stratum         : 0
Ref time (UTC)  : Thu Jan 01 00:00:00 1970
System time     : 0.000000000 seconds slow of NTP time
Last offset     : +0.000000000 seconds
RMS offset      : 0.000000000 seconds
Frequency       : 8.333 ppm slow
Residual freq   : +0.000 ppm
Skew            : 0.000 ppm
Root delay      : 1.000000000 seconds
Root dispersion : 1.000000000 seconds
Update interval : 0.0 seconds
Leap status     : Not synchronised

I have been using chrony since late 2019, but I didn't notice this irritating issue until early October, 2020. It seems that chrony should return an error rather than seemingly perfect time. However, there are a number of obvious indicators that the data is bad. I will probably account for that eventually. That is, I will throw an error under those conditions.

Along those lines, I will try to keep track of update intervals and therefore what a likely maximum update interval is. I know I've seen on the order of 17 minutes (1,000 seconds), and I think I've seen an hour or more, but I'm not sure.