Now Facebook is trying to change time

Posted on January 24, 2018


Facebook has already changed the way people and businesses communicate, how weddings and other celebrations are organised, the news we read and the opinions we develop, and how we announce new babies being brought into the words. Now, it wants to change the whole way we assess duration – time.

Perhaps that’s an exaggeration, but Facebook has created a new way of measuring it. An engineer for the social media site has coined the ‘flick’ – an extremely short unit of time not likely to have much bearing on our everyday lives, but one that coders, video producers and video editors should make themselves aware of.

There are 705,600,000 flicks in a second, which makes the new unit only marginally longer than a nanosecond (a billionth of a second), so it’s certainly too small a unit to count out loud. What, therefore, is the purpose of this ludicrously small fragment of time?

Why ‘flick’?

The name is a (slightly mangled) shortening of ‘frame-tick’. A ‘frame’, if you’re not familiar with the term, is a still image that forms part of a video or other moving picture. Framerates vary from one format to the next.

What is the flick’s significance?

TechCrunch notes that the flick, far from being a Facebook vanity project, is actually a very useful and well-thought out measurement and might lead to “more harmonious” video and audio development.

The number 1/705,600,000 is mathematically convenient, neatly dividing into a wide number of commonly used framerates like 1/24 and 1/30. As a variety of different framerates are used, it can mean that video clips can be slightly shorter in some formats than others.

As flicks fit into all the fractions of a second in which framerates occur, it could provide a uniform measurement that helps cross-platform video development and reduces syncing errors and graphical glitches.

Some fun flick facts

To illustrate the very fleeting nature of flicks, I thought it might be interesting to have a look at what happens in a flick, or how the flick relates to some of the things we do:

– During every flick, the global consumption of data is 51 kilobytes, which is about the same as a 100-word Microsoft Word document
– The average page on the internet takes 3.21 seconds, or 2,264,976,000 flicks, to load
– Every day, we spend 50 minutes on Facebook, which is just over two trillion flicks
– With a life expectancy of 81.6 years, the average Brit will live for more than 1.8 quintillion (that’s a one followed by 15 zeros) flicks

It remains to be seen how widely the flick will be adapted, but its development is a clear sign that Facebook is likely to shape the world of video for the foreseeable future.

Content Team Leader at Engage Web
John works for Engage Web as a Content Team Leader and regularly contributes to the website and programmes of his beloved Chester F.C.
John Murray
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