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I've noticed many websites that host files for downloads have an interstitial page between the download link/button and the actual start of the download. Terminology on the page may include "Your download will begin shortly. If it does not, try this direct link".

What is the purpose of this page? It seems to draw away from the general experience of downloading a file. Is this beneficial for bookmarking? Less experienced users? Analytics?

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4 Answers

up vote 11 down vote accepted

It may partially be related to advertisements. Since there is a few seconds of required waiting, users are more likely to read the ads surrounding the link.

This may also help lowering the workload of server if one machines tries to download the same file multiple times at the same time.

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I think advertisements are the only reason for letting the users wait. Load-balancing may be accomplished without waiting-times for the user. –  feeela Sep 1 '11 at 10:16
    
All very good answers, but only one can win ;) –  Fammy Sep 1 '11 at 17:58
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One benefit is that it lets you see how many downloads aren't completed -- if you just have a straight download link then only completed downloads will be logged by your web server, and you'll never see the aborted ones.

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  • Context: Granularity over various conditional logic: Is the user coming from a different country? If so find a server (mirror) that is closer?
  • User Access: Limiting downloads by user access control (logged in users can get the same content)
  • Analytics: Tracking downloads
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All that can be done without waiting—it doesn't sound like a good reason for "will begin shortly". –  feeela Sep 1 '11 at 10:15
    
Yeah, you missed the big elephant in the room called advertising dollars. –  sholsinger Sep 7 '11 at 18:16
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Downloads can be tracked without a landing page and also user access. So the "download will begin shortly page" is only for advertising and for reduced bandwidth (if the user fails to click something).

Just today I've clicked a link for download and thought "Oh no, that was not the right version!" and went back without downloading it because of timeout, so they saved bandwidth with me today.

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