Have you ever tried to download a file from a website only to find the downloading incredibly slow? This can be for a number of reasons. Maybe the web server isn’t that fast. Maybe a ton of people are all trying to download the file at the same time and the server is overloaded (the Slashdot or Digg effect). Or, maybe your own connection is at fault. If the problem is one of the first two, you may want to try out Burnbit, a cool website that turns any HTML download into a bittorrent.
For instance, let’s say I’m trying to grab the newest version of Linux Mint the day it is released. If I’m downloading it from the main servers, which are probably getting hammered because Linux Mint is one of the more popular distros, then I may find downloading the .iso file a bit slower than if I’d wait for a few days. But I’m impatient, and have to have it Right Now, so I start the download. Only it’s slow. With Burnbit, part of this problem could be avoided.
“Could be” is the operative phrase, which is because of how Burnbit works, and how BitTorrents work. With a standard HTML download, a single server is transmitting data to you. It is also transmitting identical data to everyone trying to download the file. The more people trying to download the file, the less bandwidth is available to transmit the data to each person, who then feel a slowdown in their download speeds. BitTorrent, on the other hand lessens the burden on the person sharing a file. It does this by chopping the file up into hundreds or even thousands of pieces. The person sharing then sends these pieces to the different people downloading.
This isn’t exactly how it works, but the effect is that person 1 gets piece 1, person 2 gets piece 2, person 3 gets piece 3, and so forth. The benefit is that now each of the people downloading can share the pieces they have with other people downloading. This has the dual effect of speeding up the process and making life easier on the person sharing (person 1 can now get piece 2 and 3 from other people).
So Burnbit “fixes” the bottleneck that can occur by turning a standard HTML download into a BitTorrent download. How? By “burning” it. According to the Burnbit website, this is the act of “making a .torrent equivalent of the file that’s powered by both the server(s) hosting the file (HTTP Web seed), as well as all the regular peers that are downloading it using Bittorrent.”
In effect, once Burnbit “burns” a file, it treats the server as the first seed of a torrent. Anyone can then load the .torrent file created, and not only will they be downloading the HTML-served file, but anyone else using the Burnbit .torrent file will be able to share with each other.
This is likely not something you’ll use every day. For one thing, if the problem is a slow server, you may find that the initial “burning” takes a while. Second, with Internet speeds the way they are, more and more downloads are lightning quick. And finally, if no one else is using Burnbit to download a file along with you, then there is absolutely no speed increase, as the entire download will come from the standard server. Only when multiple people are sharing the burden will the speeds increase. Still, it’s a pretty ingenious downloading method. I tried it out on a couple of the examples on the Burnbit page, and speeds were definitely impressive. If this catches on, I see it as being a fantastic option (not alternative), to standard HTTP and BitTorrent downloads.