We’ve all seen those download pages where a couple of http, ftp and BitTorrent mirrors are listed. We often just pick one of there, but wouldn’t it be great if you could use them all at the same time?
Metalinker has the solution. It works like this, the .metalink file tells your download manager where it can get the file, and connects to these different sources at the same time.
OpenOffice recently started using .metalink files. And if you take a closer look at the inside of the metalink you will see it’s just a simple text format.
Here’s the Open Office metalink (.txt)
Metalinks have several advantages to individual mirrors. First of all, it speeds up the download process. Secondly, downloads are more reliable since metalinks use several mirrors. An additional advantage for the publisher is that he or she is able to prioritize a source. As you can see i you open up this metalink file (txt), the OpenOffice team gave a higher priority to the BitTorrent download, and a lower priority to http and ftp. This saves OpenOffice some bandwidth (p2p is prioritized), but it guarantees that the file will be available if there are no seeds available for the .torrent download.
Creating a metalink is pretty easy with the metalink creator. Fill out some general info about the file, select and prioritize the sources, and you’re done.
Metalinks are currently supported by 5 download managers. Aria2 (unix) and GetRight (windows) are the only BitTorrent supporting download managers at this point. In my opinion, metalinks have a lot of potential, and it would be great to see this implemented in for example Firefox and Opera.