How the Obscure Network Time Protocol Works to Sync Clocks Around the World

Sam Denby of Half as Interesting explains the function of the obscure but essential Network Time Protocol (NTP), a long-standing networking protocol for clock synchronization that operates behind the scenes. NTP is essentially, a series of checks validated by servers at different stratum levels. Stratum Zero has the final word since it uses atomic clocks.

The top layer of the Network Time Protocol, which is called Stratum Zero, are the actual clock themselves these are generally some of the most accurate clocks in the world and they’re the final authority for what the time on Earth actually is at any given moment.

The Protocol Operates Worldwide

The Network Time Protocol operates in several countries around the world.

As of right now, the internet is hooked up to 19 of these stratum zero clocks located in Germany, Switzerland, France, the UK, Japan, Hawaii Ontario, Colorado, Maryland, and space. And as far as I can tell every single one of these time sources is owned or operated by some kind of government agency.

Network Time Protocol
Lori Dorn
Lori Dorn

Lori is a Laughing Squid Contributing Editor based in New York City who has been writing blog posts for over a decade. She also enjoys making jewelry, playing guitar, taking photos and mixing craft cocktails.