It seems to be all the rage today for sites to give timestamps only in an approximate, relative fashion: one hour ago, two days ago, etc. Among other sites, I see both Twitter and StackOverflow doing this, so apparently it's popular for both the technical and the general communities.
I can't figure out why. It's annoying to see two posts marked "one hour ago" and wonder which one was posted first. It's particularly annoying to see two posts marked "one hour ago," then check back and see that suddenly they are an hour apart, because one of them was "two hours ago" and the other is still "one hour ago," then to see them both finally mysteriously become "two hours ago."
Are real timestamps actually that hard for normal people to understand? Am I the only one in the world who ever wants to know if two posts are a five minutes or fifty-five minutes apart?
My favorite message board is hosted on UBB.threads (not my favorite software, but the community is good), which I think gives the user a profile option to disable this inanity. I can't find that on Twitter, and I'm about to check Stack Overflow, where I bet I won't find it, either.
Who thought this was a good idea? Who decided it shouldn't be a per-user option? And why in the world is everyone copying it?