Reshaping the Internet: What’s a Magnet Link?

Currently in Beta, Project Maelstrom aims to help more of the Internet work the way BitTorrent works. In today’s post, team lead Rob Velasquez discusses one of the key components that makes BitTorrent work so efficiently.

Project Maelstrom has a big mission: can we create a sustainable, neutral, people-powered, and content centric Internet?

As our beta users will know, our peer-to-peer browser supports this mission by making the opening of content published as torrents very simple. One of the ways that it does this is by treating the BitTorrent protocol just like HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol), so that visiting a Torrent is just like visiting a webpage.

You see, HTTP is great if your web page is simple text and small images. But the volume and size of data is vastly larger on today’s Internet than when HTTP was first implemented in the 1990s. The key advantage that BitTorrent has over HTTP is that it handles the heavy lifting – moving large sets of data – without reliance on a central server. This provides faster data transfers, better network management, and no single choke points.

Magnet links bypass the reliance on HTTP even further, and we encourage publishers to use them. We’ll get into how, but first let’s talk a little more about Torrents.

What’s a “Torrent” anyway?

A Torrent is a file format for data transfer (similar to a zipfile). Inside a “.torrent” file is a set of information that helps your BitTorrent client find and download data. This information is a group of files that includes names, sizes, and folder structure. Along with information about files, a “.torrent” file also contains a list of trackers.

A tracker can be thought of as a computer – or group of computers – that helps identify the location of specific data. When a request for content goes out, say the latest issue of The FADER 101 Bundle, a tracker helps connect the person seeking it to the location(s) where it can be found.

Magnet links

Magnet links are simple text links that include all of the necessary information, doing away with the need to download a “.torrent” file. This brings us closer to a true peer-to-peer experience.

The final step would be eliminating the need for trackers. At that point, your BitTorrent client would find the data you are requesting directly from other people, rather than relying on a tracker. You can read more about how this works by checking out our post on How BitTorrent finds torrents.

maelstrom_magnetlink (1)

What it means for the Internet

We believe that more of the web should work like the BitTorrent protocol and trackerless magnet links are a big part of that vision.

With the Project Maelstrom beta, you can now open torrents in a web browser without the need to download “.torrent” files or manage hard drive space. So while you can download The FADER 101 Bundle as a torrent as mentioned above, you can also go directly to magnet:?xt=urn:btih:23ABBAA2A7D44A4EAFCBC907DB475376D1422629 in Project Maelstrom to access the Bundle.

You can try how this works now by joining our beta group. Simply download the latest beta and get access any of the top music and video content from our Bundle offerings from 2015.

Please join us in this project, become a fractional owner of this new Internet and help us shape the future of our network.

Written by: Rob Velasquez

Rob is Product Manager of Project Maelstrom at BitTorrent, Inc.

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