the powers of 10

All Skip Buttons Should Be 10 Seconds Long

Reverse, reverse! Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photos by New Line Cinema

My favorite way to watch things is with a skip button. I’m not talking about a rewind or a fast-forward, per se, but about a single push that catapults you backward or forward through a scene. I could spin through The Princess Diaries on DVD to rewatch the foot-pop kiss scene over and over again. I could jump past the commercials of American Idol on DVR. When streaming services came along, I could drag my cursor and be three scenes ahead. Often, with a remote control or on a browser, I can skip forward just a few seconds with a click.

I am a serial skimmer. I stopped reading every single word in a book once I realized it would get me to the end more quickly. This has bled into the way I watch things. I can’t remember the last time I watched an entire movie on my laptop without hitting 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 restrain myself when I watch things with other people. I don’t really have a reason for doing this. Maybe it’s a sign that I’m afraid of commitment. I could just be a zoomer with a poor attention span. Perhaps “Netflix bloat” has something to do with it? Whatever the case, shows and movies just move slowly for my taste, so I skip.

I acknowledge that this is a patchy way to consume TV. My film-schooled older sister makes fun of me nearly constantly. Still, I’m not planning on changing my ways any time soon. If anything, my position’s only hardened over time, making me more particular about my skipping habit and how streaming experiences help me or don’t.

But it has led me to a realization: All skip buttons, on all services, should be exactly ten seconds long.

We know that not all streaming services are created equal, not just in terms of content, but in terms of interface. There are different font sizes for captions, different ways of searching through shows, different color schemes … the list goes on. But if certain features are common across all these platforms — like the presence of a watchlist, curated title recommendations, the occasional seasonal flourish or holiday pun — what if we extended that to the tools that allow us to jump ahead? What if, maybe, just maybe, the skip button could be universal?

Ten seconds forwards and backwards across the board, that’s all I ask.

It wouldn’t even be that big of a logistical leap. All of the major streaming platforms have options to jump ten seconds ahead except for one. In true “it’s not streaming, it’s HBO” fashion, HBO Max does 15-second skips. (Though it’s not like Max’s functionality matters too much anyways, since my computer or TV always seem on the edge of exploding when I try to use the buttons in the app.)

I don’t just want the big players to get in line, though. I want everyone. Many of the shady, illegal streaming sites have an option to skip backwards ten seconds already. On the legal side of the internet, Tubi’s content may be free, but you still must pay the price of being either rocketed forward or backwards 30 seconds. Comcast Xfinity’s streaming option, meanwhile, has buttons that put you 15 seconds back or 30 seconds forward. Not only are both of them above ten, they’re also asymmetrical. It’s heinous. It’s an abomination. And it’s the only platform where I can reliably catch up on American Crime Story: Impeachment. Having buttons that are that useless is somehow still worse than Vudu which, hauntingly, doesn’t even give you the option to skip.

At this point, you might be wondering: Why, specifically, ten seconds? Practically, it can skip you through the fluff of a conversation or scene until you get the juicy info you need to move on. Sure, you might need to click a few times to get to the end, but you still pick up a few words or sentences here and there in between, so it almost feels like you’ve watched the entire thing. Fifteen seconds take you just a little bit too far, enough time for a jarring scene transition to hit before you’re ready, while 30 seconds might skip entire moments altogether. The goal is to get to the point, not miss it entirely. If you happen to miss a snippet of something that seems important, ten seconds backwards put you right where you were without a fuss.

Impractically, ten is a nice round number. Plenty of wonderful things in our world are in base ten. We’ve got ten fingers, ten toes, and binary numbers. The metric system, which makes far more sense than the imperial system, works in tens. Why should skip buttons be any different?

Notably, barely any of the online streaming platforms I looked into use a traditional fast-forward or fast-backward option (if you want to beef about speed-watching, look here). If you’re using a remote then you can probably move ahead at two- or four-times speed until you think you’re in the right spot. But it’s an imprecise way to skip. You can’t hear snippets of audio in the 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 did you have to restart a DVD, only to absolutely blow past where you left off? And forget about “Be kind, rewind.” These days, streamers just save your place for you. Innovation is a beautiful thing. I’m just asking for one more tiny improvement, that’s all.

I doubt my plea for the universal ten-second skip will ever be realized. I’m just one person shouting an idea into an endless void of ideas. That’s okay. Hopefully, the next time you’re watching Succession — okay, maybe not Succession, since you really can’t miss any of that juicy Roy family drama, but you get the idea — you’ll be a little more tempted to give the skipping lifestyle a try. Maybe you’ll wince a little after a 15-second jump when you realize those extra five seconds do matter, even if they seem small. Sometimes, in the face of such big problems in the world, of just so much happening all the time, the little things really do matter. Every second counts.

All Skip Buttons Should Be 10 Seconds Long