Leap year, Robinhood and decentralized exchange

There are a few legendary bugs in software development that come up from time to time. Clock related bugs are some of my favorites. These days computers keep track of time in terms seconds since Jan 01 1970. If you ask a computer at low level what time it is, it will say something like “1583191146.0000000”. It’s a single universal number that all computers can agree with.

Some computers in the past stored time using MM/DD/YY this caused programs to potentially fail during the turn of the century (Y2K!). People were concerned that programs would fail and the world would come to an end due to this bug. (After all 00 is < 99). An entire industry was created to address his potential problem. While partying in 1999 everyone found that nothing happened. I think that the hype helped people to test and probably found serious bugs and fixed them.

Leap year also causes issues. I witnessed first hand a software failure last weekend. It turns out there isn’t a February 29 2015 and a mission critical server failed. We were able to fix it by working over the weekend. However it would have been very difficult to fix or test for this issue. (This bug is unrelated to our work in decentralized exchange.)

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Our bug

Last week the market dropped due to another non clock related crisis. Today the market opened and Robinhood, a major trading platform failed to open. It failed to execute trades all day. This caused people to loose money and miss out on opportunities on what turned out to be a huge gain in the market. The timing couldn’t have been worse, and some are suggesting a leap year bug is to blame. Robin hood and other centralized trading systems only trade for a few arbitrary hours per day. Perhaps the bug would have been found sooner if these systems operated continuously.

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Debuggin console from Robinhood posted by https://twitter.com/Davis0036/status/1234605727223832576

Decentralized exchanges, when designed property are not susceptible to these clock flaws. The underlying blockchains have already solved these problems and are continuously audited through open source and transparency.

Exposing global economies to these sorts of bugs and lack of transparency isn’t sustainable. I’m confident that decentralize trade is the future.

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