Partial File Sharing Protocol

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Partial File Sharing Protocol Version (PFSP) 1.0
Tor Klingberg <>
August 2002


This is a protocol for sharing partial files on the Gnutella network. A partial file is a file that a host has only downloaded parts of. Partial File Sharing allows files to spread faster over the Gnutella network. Here, the server is the host that is providing the file, and client is the host that requests the file.

Partial File Transfer

The server allows HTTP requests for partial files, at URIs chosen by the server. They can for example be assigned a file index and shared at "/get/index/filename", or simply at "/partials/filename". If requests by URN are supported, the best way is probably to share only at "uri-res/N2R?urn:sha1:HASH_OF_COMPLETE_FILE". Servers should make sure that the URI to a partial file does not become invalid when the file is completed.

Only partial requests (with a Range header) are accepted.

The X-Available-Ranges header is used by the server to inform the client about what ranges are available. Note that a 2xx or 503 response without an X-Available-Ranges header means the complete file is available. The format is as follows:

X-Available-Ranges: bytes 0-10,20-30

The client requests the range it wants using the Range header.

Range: bytes=0- means the client wants any ranges the server can provide.

The server then provides the range it wants to upload using a 206 Partial Content response. This allows the server to upload different ranges to different hosts, and save bandwidth by allowing them to get the other parts from each other. The server can decide to upload any range inside the requested range. This means that the client cannot be sure that the first byte in the response is first requested byte.

The 206 response contains a Content-Range header on the form

Content-Range: bytes <start>-<end>/<total_size>

Note that <total_size> is the size of the complete file.

If the server is unable to provide any part of the requested range, it returns a "503 Requested Range Not Available" (the Reason Phrase is just my recommendation). If the client continues to request the same range, the server may send a 404 to make a PFSP unaware client stop retrying. The X-Available-Ranges header will tell a PFSP enabled client what ranges it can request.

If the client provides an "Accept:" header with "multipart/byteranges" in it, the server may respond with multiple ranges at once. The client may send multiple ranges in the Range: header if it sends an Accept header with multipart/byteranges in the same header set. This is standard HTTP/1.1 stuff, but I doubt that Gnutella servents will support it. If you do not want multipart support, just ignore it and everything will work fine.

You should, however, be aware that there can be multiple ranges specified in one "Range:" header. Servents are then allowed to choose any range within the specified ranges, or simply read the first range only.

Tree Hashes

Tree hashes are not absolutely required for Partial File Sharing, so you don't have to implement this part at first. TigerTree can be implemented if/when corrupt files become a problem. The reason that it is in this document is because Partial File Sharing might cause corrupt files to spread faster.

TigerTree hashes are computed using a 1024 byte base size. It is then up to each vendor to decide how many sub-hashes to actually store. Storing (and advertising) the top 10 levels of the tree might be good decision. It would allow a resolution of about 2 MB on a 1 GB file, and requires only about 25 kB of hash data per file.

The tree is provided as specified in the Tree Hash EXchange format (THEX). It basically says that the hash tree is provided as a long stream of binary data starting with the root hash, then the two hashes it is computed from, and so on.

To inform the client about where the hash tree can be retrieved the server includes an X-Thex-URI header on this form

X-Thex-URI: <URI> ; <ROOT>

<URI> is any valid URI. It can be to an uri-res translator, and can even point to another host. The client can then retrieve desired parts of the hash tree by doing range requests for the specified URI.

The THEX data is shared as if it was a partial file. If a client requests a subrange of the THEX data that the server does not store, and is not willing to calculate on the fly, the server uses the same routines as if it was a partial file where the requested range is not available.

<ROOT> is the root TigerTree hash in base32 (RFC 3548) encoding.

How to find the location of partial files

This protocol does not affect Gnutella messages in any way. The only available mean of spreading the location of a partial file is through the download mesh in X-Gnutella-Alternate-Location headers. I think this should work very well. Since those who share a partial file are also downloading the same file, they will be able to send alt-loc headers to other hosts sharing the full file.

Spreading partial files in the download mesh will cause servents that do not support partial file sharing to receive addresses to partial sources. I don't think that is a problem. The worst thing that can happen is that they won't be able to use those sources.

When requesting a file for download, the client must include an alt-loc header pointing to its locally shared partial file, if there is not a good reason not to do so in the particular case. If the client is firewalled (and push proxy URIs are not available) that is a reason. Clients should do this even if the download has not started yet. Since it takes a while for alt-locs to spread, the download is likely to have started when someone else get the alt-loc. If not, a few failed download requests is not a big problem.

Sample negotiation

Here is a sample negotiation. I don't think it will look exactly like this, but it should show the headers in action. Clients might want to request a small range first, to get the list of available ranges. There are some linebreakes in long headers below.


User-Agent: FooBar/1.0
Connection: Keep-Alive
Range: bytes=73826-
X-Gnutella-Content-URN: urn:sha1:QLFYWY2RI5WZCTEP6MJKR5CAFGP7FQ5X


HTTP/1.1 206 Partial Content
Server: FooBar/1.0
Content-Type: audio/mpeg
Content-Range: bytes 73826-285749/533273
Content-Length: 211924
Connection: Keep-Alive
X-Available-Ranges: bytes 0-285749,425926-488271
X-Gnutella-Content-URN: urn:sha1:QLFYWY2RI5WZCTEP6MJKR5CAFGP7FQ5X
X-Gnutella-Alternate-Location: <list of alt-locs>

    <211924 bytes of data>

"N2X" above is an example. Someone should comment on what should be used. Since the URI is provided in the X-Thex-URI header, each vendor can chose how to provide the THEX data.