In January, Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) announced that it had finished developing a new product. It wasn't a new social network, nor was it a new feature on any of its existing services. In fact, this new "product" was a departure from anything the company had done before: a new unit of time called the "flick." That raises the question: What interest does Facebook have in (further) altering the universe as we know it?

What is a "flick"?

A flick is actually pretty simple in concept. It is 705,600,000th of a second -- the next-largest unit after a nanosecond. You might just say "good to know" and move on, but if you work in technology -- specifically in digital effects in film and other media -- the flick may be a lot more interesting. You can read about all the code-writing specifics here.

In simple terms, the flick and the ability to put it in code was developed to create an easy-to-use unit of time when breaking down frames of video during editing. It could become a useful tool for those working in special effects, media, and virtual reality (VR). But before investors get too excited about this being a new revenue stream, bear in mind the company is allowing free use of the flick. So why did Facebook bother?

Facebook and the importance of digital media

Facebook is all about social media, and an integral part of helping people connect and interact with one another is through video and other digital content. That's what is fueling Facebook's growth, as the number of users and the time they spend on a Facebook service drives advertising revenue. In 2017, that ad revenue increased 49% to $39.9 billion.

Two young women using smartphones.

Image source: Getty Images.

The year presented challenges, though, and as a result of changes to what gets promoted on Facebook, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the amount of time users spent on Facebook decreased. And the company is OK with that. It's about quality time, not quantity. And video is one way it wants to increase the  quality of users' experiences. 

During the Jan. 31 conference call with analysts, Zuckerberg noted that "on our last earnings call, I said that video done well can bring people together, but too often today, watching video is just a passive experience. To shift that balance, I said that we were going to focus on videos that encourage meaningful social interaction. ... Over the next three years, we know video will continue to grow. So our job is to build video experiences that help people connect with family, friends and groups."

Facebook also has an interest in getting businesses to use video to create ads that are effective and relevant. The flick could help enhance digital video creation and editing for both content creators and advertisers who use Facebook. The flick could also be useful for Facebook itself.

While still very small, Facebook's VR subsidiary, Oculus, continues to grow. A new stand-alone headset called the Oculus Go is due to be released early this year. The development of more VR content could get sped up from the use of the flick.

In short, while Facebook is still in the business of connecting people with each other and with experiences, video is an increasingly important part of the strategy. The flick is proof of that. But will it be useful? Only time will tell. It's hard to argue with Facebook on strategy right now, though, considering its impressive results.

Nicholas Rossolillo owns shares of Facebook. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Facebook. The Motley Fool has the following options: short March 2018 $200 calls on Facebook and long March 2018 $170 puts on Facebook. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.