Here’s What You Should Know About ‘Flicks,’ A New Unit Of Time Facebook Just Invented


In a surprising turn, Facebook and Oculus have apparently invented a new measurement of time, called "flicks" — the smallest time unit that's still larger than a nanosecond, according to the GitHub documentation.

A flick is 1/705,600,000 of a second, while a nanosecond is 1/1,000,000,000 of a second, which makes a flick roughly 1.41723356 seconds long.

Why Facebook Had To Create Flicks

Why? What's wrong with conventional time measurements that Facebook had to invent an entirely different one? Well, it has to do with frame rates. The name itself is actually a combination of the words "frame" and "tick." It's designed to measure individual frame duration for video frame rates. This means whether a video runs at 24 hz, 25 hz, or even 120 hz, users will be able to use flicks to ensure that everything is synced up.

One of the creators of Facebook's new time unit is Christopher Horvath, a former Facebook Story architect. Horvath, who left the company back in May 2017, was surprised to find out that his work had made it into the real world. On Facebook, he posted:

"Hey remember that one time I took weeks and weeks to design a unit of time, with lots of help from you — and then it took over a year for me to get it through the Open Source process at Facebook (my fault, not theirs!)"

"Flicks is a thing in the world!!!! WHOOO HOOO!!!!"

Facebook Flicks, Simplified

Why would flicks be useful, anyway? Well, let's look at video game programming, where, in a game that runs at 60 fps, the software gets a time budget of 16.667 milliseconds to determine how to render thousands of pixels onscreen. It's not just games, either: web browsers and various other software also rely on time units to ensure buttery-smooth graphics rendering.

But it's difficult to talk about 16.667 milliseconds with regard to rendering and frame rate jargon, and sometimes programs make mistakes from rounding errors. With flicks, the unit is more defined and narrowed down. For instance, a 60 fps refresh rate corresponds to 11,760,000 flicks to render each new frame. Getting it now? The flick time unit, hence, fills the gaps that using nanoseconds can create when measuring frame duration because in using nanoseconds, common film and TV frame rates can't be properly divided. Using flicks allow the user to sync frame rates using whole integers, rather than decimals.

It's all very complicated stuff, but the people who'll benefit from it the most understand it clearly. Read more about flicks on its GitHub page to learn more.

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