The Swatch Group isn't the only outfit that's rethinking the nature of time. The folks at 4EN, an application-services provider based outside London, want to offer people a way of dealing with one set of problems caused by the fast-moving global economy.
Let's say that you want to conduct a real-time meeting over the Web with colleagues in Bangalore, India; New York City; Paris; and Santiago, Chile. Do you simply set a time and expect everyone to figure out time-zone changes? The people at 4EN have a better idea. Since February, 4EN (which stands for the "4th Environment," the company's term for Internet space) has been hosting a referendum on a new global time standard. Visitors to the company's Web site can vote for one of four choices: "Greenwich Electronic Time," "Universal Time," "Swatch Internet Time," or "No change needed." Thus far, the standard of choice seems to be Greenwich Electronic Time, with roughly 63% of the votes cast as of early March.
"Everyone used to do business face-to-face," says Symon Blomfield, 43, CEO of 4EN. "But with the Net, people who have never met before are communicating intensively. This new way of working needs its own set of measurements — its own time zone."
Contact Symon Blomfield by email (firstname.lastname@example.org), or participate in the Internet Time Vote on the Web (www.4en.com/itime).
A version of this article appeared in the May 2000 issue of Fast Company magazine.