ISO8601, ServiceStack and Browsers

The three musketeers

Carrying on from my previous Understanding ISO8601 International Date Standard Post.

What’s the deal?

Well you will see that in a minute. Different settings in ServiceStack will result in different date output being returned, specially when you are interested in ISO8601 format.

This whole post assumes that we are dealing with DateTime in England where it is GMT + 01:00 in summer and GMT+00:00 in winter.

Settings in ServiceStack

JsConfig.DateHandler = DateHandler.ISO8601;  
JsConfig.AssumeUtc = false;

The above setting will take dates that are being returned back by the ServiceStack service into ISO8601. But there is a catch. Say for example if you are getting your dates out of EF, they will have the DateTimeKind set to DateTimeKind.Unspecified by default so what do you think ServiceStack would return if the date was 2015-06-09?

  1. 2015-06-09T00:00:00.0000000Z (with Zulu)
  2. 2015-06-09T00:00:00.0000000
  3. 2015-06-09T00:00:00.0000000+01:00 (with date already having calculated the offset)

Well the correct answer is 2. Why? Because ServiceStack doesn’t know what the DateTimeKind is so it doesn’t send that information back to the consuming client (which we will assume is a chrome browser for this post). ServiceStack is doing the right thing.

Browsers don’t always talk ISO8601

So now the browser has the date as 2015-06-09T00:00:00.0000000 so when you do new Date("2015-06-09T00:00:00.0000000") it goes on the assumption that the DateTime is UTC (which it should not) and turns that date into Tue Jun 09 2015 01:00:00 GMT+0100 (GMT Daylight Time). So it adds another hour to accommodate the offset to make it a local date. Now, according to the ISO8601 it should assume that.

Winter Surprise: If the date was a winter date e.g. 2015-11-04T00:00:00.0000000 and you did new Date("2015-11-04T00:00:00.0000000") in the browser, the browser would then keep the date as is i.e. Wed Nov 04 2015 00:00:00 GMT+0000 (GMT Standard Time) because there is no offset to be added.

How about we just add JsConfig.AssumeUtc = true;
Well we could do that but you have to be aware of how the browser would handle it. You see with the AssumeUtc flag turned on ServiceStack would return the following: 2015-06-09T00:00:00.0000000Z output. So in our browser when we do new Date("2015-06-09T00:00:00.0000000Z") what we get back is Tue Jun 09 2015 01:00:00 GMT+0100 (GMT Daylight Time), which again results in an added hour in the browser to convert the date to local date so in this case the browser and ServiceStack are both right.

Is there anything else we can do?

The problem is the browser assuming date time without a given Time Zone (i.e. 2015-06-09T00:00:00.0000000) as UTC and hence it is appending another hour onto it. It should really assume that the date is in local time zone and not do what it is currently doing but hey, they are making that assumption so we have to deal with it.

There are couple of solutions though:

  1. In the browser apply the following solution. Decorating the date with UTC timezone (e.g. DateTime.SpecifyKind(someDate, DateTimeKind.Utc);) will not have any impact on the browser’s behavior as discussed earlier. This solution in essence is negating the browsers behaviour to treat the date time as UTC and hence treat the date returned as a date with local time zone.
  2. Apply the following code which would return the date with the offset applied and also return the offset applied information e.g. 2015-06-09T00:00:00.0000000+01:00. This might again cause problems if dealing with territories with different time zones.
JsConfig<DateTime>.SerializeFn = time => new DateTime(time.Ticks, DateTimeKind.Local).ToString("o");

JsConfig<DateTime?>.SerializeFn = time => time != null ? new DateTime(time.Value.Ticks, DateTimeKind.Local).ToString("o") : null;

Some Raw data

All the following table results are based on having the DateTimeKind as being Unspecified on the dates.

With JsConfig.DateHandler = DateHandler.ISO8601; JsConfig.AssumeUtc = false;

ActualDate ServiceStack output Browser Parsing Daylight Saving
2015-06-09 2015-06-09T00:00:00.0000000 Tue Jun 09 2015 01:00:00 GMT+0100 Yes
2015-12-09 2015-12-09T00:00:00.0000000 Wed Dec 09 2015 00:00:00 GMT+0000 No

With JsConfig.DateHandler = DateHandler.ISO8601; JsConfig.AssumeUtc = true;

ActualDate ServiceStack output Browser Parsing Daylight Saving
2015-06-09 2015-06-09T00:00:00.0000000Z Tue Jun 09 2015 01:00:00 GMT+0100 Yes
2015-12-09 2015-12-09T00:00:00.0000000Z Wed Dec 09 2015 00:00:00 GMT+0000 No

With JsConfig<DateTime>.SerializeFn = time => new DateTime(time.Ticks, DateTimeKind.Local).ToString("o");

ActualDate ServiceStack output Browser Parsing Daylight Saving
2015-06-09 2015-06-09T00:00:00.0000000+01:00 Tue Jun 09 2015 00:00:00 GMT+0100 Yes
2015-12-09 2015-12-09T00:00:00.0000000+00:00 Wed Dec 09 2015 00:00:00 GMT+0000 No


Depending on your needs, you may always want the time to be treated as local time everywhere hence ignoring different time zones. In which case you will want to go for the first solution.

However for the needs to show time differently to people with different time zones a much more thoughtful decision would be required and browsers’ behavior will need to be taken into consideration, specially when the services are not returning any time zone information.

DateTime stuff is very complicated and I am certainly no expert so if I have got some information incorrect then please do let me know. Thanks.


Fun with DateTime: DateTimeKind.Unspecified