What is a magnet link & how effectively is it used in BitTorrent?

If you use BitTorrent, it is likely that some of the portals specialized in these networks have offered you a torrent magnetic link as an alternative to the traditional files that you have to download so that the application you use begins to share its content. Both have the same objective, but internally they have great differences. Do you know them?

P2P file sharing networks stand out for their ability to distribute large files and as an alternative to the server-based distribution system. Although the massive adoption of streaming services and the criminalization of these networks as synonymous with piracy have reduced their importance in recent years, millions of users continue to use them on a daily basis.

If the Internet connection; the client application used; connection settings; the balance between downloads and uploads or the selection of the most popular torrents are key to improving the experience, none of this could exist without torrents themselves, those small files that, downloaded from metasearch engines or specialized websites, offer content information and they tell clients what to move on the network.

Traditional torrent files don’t contain any data about the files you want to download, but they do contain information about the files being shared, such as their names, sizes, and information needed to perform data integrity checks, as well as a list of torrent trackers (if any) that coordinate all the pairs that participate in its distribution.

Torrent files can also contain extended information, such as a DHA (distributed hash table) that allows each peer to act as part of a decentralized monitoring network. DHA is an important concept when talking about magnetic bonds, the alternative to traditional ones.

What is a torrent magnet link?

Basically, it’s a text string. But there is a lot of information inside it. A magnet link contains a unique identifier, various parameters depending on the exact nature of the torrent, and most importantly, a cryptographic hash of the files contained within it. It is a mathematical algorithm applied to data that results in a unique short string representing that data. This is very useful because if two torrents point to the exact same files, they will have identical hashes.

In order for the torrent client to know who else is part of a given torrent, it simply has to compare the hashes in the magnet link with the hashes of the torrents being shared. Filtering out only those with matching hashes quickly rebuilds the swarm of peers in the network. This is the same method used by the distributed hash table found in “trackerless” torrents, which do not make use of a central server to coordinate and track peers.

A magnet link uses only essential information and removes the rest of the torrent file, since the vast majority of participants do not need that information. All this offers advantages for both those who provide torrents and users who download them.

Advantages of magnet torrent link

The first big advantage is that they are links and not files. This may seem like a minor distinction, but the files must be hosted and downloaded. Magnet links can be part of a web page just like any hyperlink. Users don’t have to go through the extra step of downloading and opening a file and providers don’t have to bother using a file hosting solution.

magnet torrent link
magnet torrent link

Another important improvement comes from the side of computer security. Any file downloaded from the Internet has an inherent risk of containing malware and some of the most popular content (big pirated games or first-run movies/series) circulating on these networks and used by cybercriminals to distribute malware. Something that is not possible in magnet links.

They also have a huge advantage over using torrent trackers. A torrent based on a magnet link hash is incredibly robust. As long as a single seed remains online, anyone else with this link can find it, even if none of the original contributors are still distributing the file. As long as the torrent files can be hashed again, existing magnet links will still work.

Great ease of use

These types of links are much easier to share. You can send them via email, as a text message, or through any popular messaging app.

And using them is as simple as clicking a link on a web page. If you have a BitTorrent client that supports magnet links installed, your web browser should prompt you to open the magnet link in the app. You can also copy and paste the link into BitTorrent clients that have an address bar for that purpose.

The truth is that everything is advantages. If you select to have your BitTorrent client open magnet links you will only have to do it once. From there, with a single click, the client will download the associated content automatically.

Also Read | 10 tricks to increase download speed on BitTorrent

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