Facebook launched a new product today: Flicks, a new unit of time. Yes, that’s right. A unit of time, like seconds or minutes or hours. After all, why limit asserting your corporate dominance to social connections, the consumption of the news cycle, and advertising on the internet, when you can define the very flow of time itself?
According the the GitHub page documenting Flicks, a Flick is “the smallest time unit which is LARGER than a nanosecond,” defined as 1/705,600,000 of a second. (For comparison, a nanosecond is 1/1,000,000,000 of a second, making a Flick roughly 1.41723356 nanoseconds long.)
We've launched Flicks, a unit of time, slightly larger than a nanosecond that exactly subdivides media frame rates and sampling frequencies. https://t.co/w9SDBznXRE
— Facebook Open Source (@fbOpenSource) January 22, 2018
Now, you may be sitting there wondering what was wrong with regular seconds that Facebook had to go and invent its own unit, especially since the second is one of the few units that is universal across SI and imperial units. The name itself is a portmanteau of the phrase “frame-tick,” which is also why you might want to use them. Flicks are designed to help measure individual frame duration for video frame rates. So whether your video is 24hz, 25hz, 30hz, 48hz, 50hz, 60hz, 90hz, 100hz, or 120hz, you’ll be able to use Flicks to ensure that everything is in sync while still using whole integers (instead of decimals).
Programmers already use built-in tools in C++ to manage these sorts of exact frame syncing, especially when it comes to designing visual effects in CGI, but the most exact timing possible in C++ is nanoseconds, which doesn’t divide evenly into most frame rates. The idea to create a new unit of time to solve this problem dates back to last year, when developer Christopher Horvath posted about it on Facebook. I asked The Verge video team if they thought this could actually be useful, and was told that it could be in theory, but that things are up in the air until they can see it in practice.