Following a decision to shut down its tracker in November 2009, file-sharing titan The Pirate Bay now says it is completely abandoning .torrent downloads a month from now and instead will only provide so-called magnet links. Although little will change for its users, the move carries with it a number of implications, of which The Pirate Bay highlights the fact that Magnet links are more difficult to block and a lot of bandwidth will be saved.
In other words, users will still be able to download files, but instead of starting transfers by downloading and launching a .torrent file from a server, they'll do so using a 'magnet link' which sends the necessary data to the BitTorrent client within the link itself.
One potential downside of using magnets is that it could take a bit longer for downloads to start, especially if there are relatively few people sharing a file. This is because the .torrent file containing details about who has what, needs to be fetched from other users in the same peer-to-peer way as the data you are after, rather than being directly downloaded from a server. However, the upside is that by not hosting the actual .torrent files, indexing sites like The Pirate Bay and its users become less vulnerable to legal threats.
TorrentFreak points out another potential benefit that may prove even more significant as media companies push for legislation in several countries, including SOPA/PIPA in the U.S. and Spain's Ley Sinde, that would give government entities new authority to seek court orders compelling ISPs to block sites accused of copyright infringement. By dropping .torrent files, the Pirate Bay would shrink its size significantly, allowing copies of the site to be easily hosted elsewhere or even carried on a USB stick.
The transition is expected to be a smooth one now that all major BitTorrent clients support magnet links. It will no doubt mark the end of an era and TPB believes it will ensure that torrents never disappear entirely.
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