Photo-Illustration: Vulture; New Line Cinema Pictures
My favorite way to look at it is to use a jump button. I’m not talking about rewinding or fast forwarding per se, but a simple push that catapults you back or forward through a scene. I could slip through Diary of a princess on DVD to watch the foot-pop kiss scene over and over again. I could skip the commercials of American Idol on DVR. When the streaming services came along, I could drag my slider and get three scenes ahead. Often times, with a remote or on a browser, I can go a few seconds ahead with a click.
I am a serial skimmer. I stopped reading every word in a book once I realized it would get me to the end more quickly. It has bled in the way I look at it. I can’t remember the last time I watched an entire movie on my laptop without pressing my right arrow key when the story got a little slow. It’s muscle memory at this point, so much so that I have to consciously hold back when looking at things with other people. I don’t really have a reason to do this. Maybe this is a sign that I’m afraid of commitment. I might just be a zoomer with low attention span. Maybe “Netflix bloat” has something to do with this? Either way, shows and movies are slowly evolving for my liking, so I just jump in.
I agree that it is an uneven way of consuming television. My older, film-trained sister almost constantly laughs at me. Still, I don’t plan on changing my habits anytime soon. If anything, my stance only hardened over time, which makes me more mindful of my skipping habit and how streaming experiences are helping me or not.
But it brought me to the realization: all jump buttons, on all services, should last exactly ten seconds.
We know that not all streaming services are created equal, not only in terms of content, but in terms of interface. There are different font sizes for captions, different ways to search shows, different color schemes… the list goes on. But if there are some features that are common to all of these platforms – like having a watchlist, curated headline recommendations, the occasional seasonal flourish, or the holiday pun – and if we extend that to the tools that allow us to go ahead? What if, maybe, just maybe, could the jump button be universal?
Ten seconds forward and backward across the whole board, that’s all I’m asking.
It wouldn’t even be such a big logistical leap. All major streaming platforms have options to skip ten seconds forward except one. In real “it’s not streaming, it’s HBO”, HBO Max jumps 15 seconds. (Although, it’s not like Max’s functionality matters too much anyway, since my computer or TV always looks like it’s about to explode when I try to use the buttons in the app.)
I don’t just want the big guys to line up, though. I want everyone. Many illegal and shady streaming sites already have the ability to go back ten seconds. On the legal side of the internet, Tubi’s content may be free, but you still have to pay the price of being jetted back or forth 30 seconds. Comcast Xfinity’s streaming option, on the other hand, has buttons that take you back 15 seconds or forward 30 seconds. Not only are they both greater than ten, but they are also asymmetric. It is odious. It is an abomination. And this is the only platform where I can reliably catch up American Crime Story: Impeachment. Having such unnecessary pimples is somehow even worse than Vudu which obsessively doesn’t even give you the option to jump.
At this point, you may be asking yourself: Why, precisely, ten seconds? In practice, it can get you through the thread of a conversation or scene until you get the juicy information you need to move on. Sure, you might have to click a few times to get to the end, but you always type a few words or phrases here and there in between, so it almost feels like you’ve watched it all. Fifteen seconds takes you just a little too far enough time for a jarring scene transition to happen before you’re ready, while 30 seconds can skip entire moments. The goal is to get straight to the point, not to miss it completely. If you happen to miss a clip of something that seems important, ten seconds back will bring you back to where you were without a problem.
Practically ten is a good round number. A lot of wonderful things in our world are base ten. We have ten fingers, ten toes, and binary numbers. The metric system, which makes more sense than the imperial system, works by the tens. Why should the jump buttons be different?
Notably, hardly any of the online streaming platforms I’ve reviewed use a traditional fast-forward or rewind option (if you want to focus on fast-watching, check out here). If you’re using a remote, you can probably go two or four times faster until you think you’re in the right place. But that’s an imprecise way to jump. You can’t hear audio clips in between, and you might not notice you’ve reached the moment you were looking for until you’ve gone too far. It was even worse in the heyday of physical media. How many times have you had to restart a DVD to never go back? And forget “Be nice, rewind”. These days, streamers just keep your spot for you. Innovation is a beautiful thing. I’m just asking for one more little improvement, that’s all.
I doubt my plea for the universal ten second jump will ever come to fruition. I am just a person who shouts an idea in an infinite void of ideas. Its good. Hope next time you watch Succession – ok, maybe not Succession, since you really can’t miss a thing about this juicy Roy family drama, but you get the idea – you’ll be a little more tempted to try the skipping lifestyle. Maybe you’ll wince a little after a 15 second jump when you achieve those extra five seconds. To do matter, even if they seem small. Sometimes in the face of such big problems in the world just so there are many things going on all time, little things really matter. Every second counts.