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You have magnets on your fridge. Did you know that there are magnets out there in cyberspace? There are, and they’re helping you download all that cool content you can’t get enough of. If you’ve ever wondered what these magical links are, and what they do, go grab a drink, put your cell phone on silent, and lock the door.

Understanding Torrents First

Before you learn about magnet links, it might be helpful for you to understand the standard way in which most people share files on the Internet. When most people want to share files on the Internet, they hunt down torrent files.

Torrent files are small files that contain metadata about the target file (a video file, a music file, etc.). It also contains information about a tracker that will be used to find and coordinate the downloading of the target file.

Torrents are managed by software clients and one of the best is distributed by Its software can help you find and download torrents so that you can get the files you want (hopefully none of it infringing on copyright) from other users directly.

Magnet Links

Magnet links compile the information that’s in a torrent file so you don’t actually need to download a torrent. Instead, you simply click on the link, and your torrent client can then immediately go out and find the target file for you.

So, for example, let’s say you want to download something licensed under a Creative Commons share­alike license. Instead of using your client to download a torrent file, you would click on a magnet link and then the download would commence immediately.

Also, with magnet links, there is no tracker because the link uses DHT, or “distributed hash table.” A distributed hash table is a class of a decentralized distributed system. It offers a service that’s similar to a hash table. Because nodes are distributed across the network,


In the grand scheme of things, not much changes, but there’s an important benefit to magnet links. You get your file one to two clicks faster. Since you don’t have to go through a tracker or download a torrent file, the process is more efficient. How much more efficient is two clicks?

Right now, it’s not enough to notice a speed bump. What magnet links are sometimes used for is to skirt the law ­ definitely not a good thing. Some sites will use magnet links as a way of not linking directly to copyright­protected material not authorized for sharing. Don’t use these sites and don’t download infringing content.

Another potential benefit of magnet links is that it may improve stability of the entire file sharing network. For legitimate uses today, however, mostly all it means is that you have a new or different way of downloading your target file.

In the future, it could add incremental improvements to workflow, however, for users trying to share files. Theoretically, it’s these kinds of incremental improvements that can lead to dramatic increases in sharing and download speeds.

Author Bio: Debbie Warner’s mind is wired for technology. After years as a programmer and data manager, she often blogs about the ins and outs of useful apps and computing capabilities for the everyday user.


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