|Internet media type|
|Type of format||File distribution|
|Extended from||XML, HTTP|
|Standard||RFC 5854, RFC 6249|
Metalink is an extensible metadata file format that describes one or more computer files available for download. It specifies files appropriate for the user's language and operating system; facilitates file verification and recovery from data corruption; and lists alternate download sources (mirror URIs).
The metadata is encoded in HTTP header fields and/or in an XML file with extension .meta4 or .metalink. The duplicate download locations provide reliability in case one method fails. Some clients also achieve faster download speeds by allowing different chunks/segments of each file to be downloaded from multiple resources at the same time (segmented downloading).
Metalink supports listing multiple partial and full file hashes along with PGP signatures. Most clients only support verifying MD5, SHA-1, and SHA-256, however. Besides FTP and HTTP mirror locations and rsync, it also supports listing the P2P methods BitTorrent, ed2k, magnet link or any other that uses a URI.
Metalink 3.0 was publicly released in 2005. It was designed to aid in downloading Linux ISO images and other large files on release day, when servers would be overloaded (each server would have to be tried manually) and to repair large downloads by replacing only the parts with errors instead of fully re-downloading them. It was initially adopted by download managers, and was used by open source projects such as OpenOffice.org and Linux distributions. A community developed around it, more download programs supported it (including proprietary ones) and it saw commercial adoption. In 2008, the community took their work to the Internet Engineering Task Force which resulted in Metalink 4.0 in 2010, described in a Standards Track RFC. Metalink 3.0 (with the extension .metalink) and Metalink 4.0 (with the extension .meta4) are incompatible because they have a slightly different format. In 2011, another Standards Track RFC described Metalink in HTTP header fields.
|cURL||No; built without Metalink support||No; built without Metalink support|
|Wget||Yes; v1.17 or later built with metalink support||Yes; v1.17 or later built with metalink support||Yes; v1.17 or later built with metalink support||Yes; v1.17 or later built with metalink support|
|DownThemAll||not in repo||not in repo||not in repo||not in repo|
|FlashGot||not in repo||not in repo||not in repo||not in repo|
|Free Download Manager||not in repo||not in repo||not in repo||not in repo|
|GetRight||not in repo||not in repo||not in repo||not in repo|
|jDownloader||not in repo||not in repo||not in repo||not in repo|
|Phex||not in repo||not in repo||not in repo||not in repo|
|SmartFTP||not in repo||not in repo||not in repo||not in repo|
|easyMule||not in repo||not in repo||not in repo||not in repo|
|ZYpp||not in repo||not in repo||not in repo||not in repo|
See also: Comparison of download managers
Mandriva Linux has integrated Metalink into package management with urpmi and aria2. Fedora has integrated Metalink into package management with yum. openSUSE has integrated Metalink into package management with ZYpp and aria2.
Wubi, the Windows-based Ubuntu installer, uses Metadl (LGPL) to download Ubuntu ISO images and takes advantage of Metalink's features of higher availability and increased reliability. If there are errors in the download, they are repaired, instead of restarting the large download.
Appupdater (GPL) for Windows "is similar to apt-get or yum on Linux. It automates the process of installing and maintaining up to date versions of programs."
Currently, OpenOffice.org uses Metalinks to distribute their free office suite. cURL offers Metalinks of their downloads. UniProt Consortium also provides a Metalink for their large protein database. Dofus, a Flash MMORPG uses Metalinks for downloads and so does SageMath, the open-source mathematical software.
The software hosting and collaboration platform Origo generates Metalinks for all hosted releases.
The following Linux distributions use Metalink for ISO image distribution: Adios, Bayanihan Linux, BeleniX, Berry Linux, BLAG Linux and GNU, Bluewhite64 Linux, Damn Small Linux, Fedora, GoboLinux, Granular Linux, KateOS, Linux Mint, openSUSE, Pardus Linux, PCLinuxOS, PuppyLinux, Sabayon Linux, StartCom Enterprise Linux, SUSE Linux, Ubuntu.
The following FreeBSD based distributions use Metalink for ISO image distribution: DesktopBSD, MidnightBSD, and TrueOS.