Will Second Life Be The AOL Of Online Virtual Worlds?

from the well-this-ought-to-be-fun dept

A couple weeks ago, we wrote about the controversy over CopyBot in SecondLife, the tool that allowed anyone to make an instant copy of any other object. As we pointed out at the time, CopyBot demonstrates pretty clearly why the idea of scarcity-based economics in virtual worlds is silly (and should make anyone claiming to be making lots of money in these worlds as one person did in a silly press release this week, question how much their holdings are really worth). However, there have been two interesting responses that we've seen. First, is Ed Felten pointing out that since Linden Labs (creators/owners/dictators-for-life of Second Life) has basically made the (bad) decision to bring all the problems of real world copyright protection into the world, it should now expect the next natural step: the DMCA Takedown Gun. Basically, the way that anyone can response if they feel their copyrighted material has been ripped off is to file a DMCA complaint. So, Felten suggests that someone create a "gun" that can be automatically pointed at any object the holder believes is in violation, and it fires off a takedown notice to Linden Labs, who will then remove the object from the game. Felten does this to help demonstrate some of the more ridiculous factors related to the DMCA and the fact that it basically makes no sense in a virtual world like this -- but it also highlights a different issue related to the closed nature of Second Life and the fact that there is a Linden Labs that controls it.

A different post about Second Life worries that the innovative platform is too closed, and suggests that it's time to build an open source version of Second Life. The reasons why aren't that well supported in the post, but it does seem like a realization that the big problem with Second Life (as with any similar world) is that they really are run under the dictatorship control of whoever created the world -- and that can create a lot of problems and limitations, because any time there's a central controlling entity, no matter how "free" they are, it can cause problems. Remember a year ago when Second Life threatened to have someone arrested after that person exploited Linden Labs' own security flaw? Perhaps one way to think of it is that Second Life is similar to the early closed online services like Prodigy, AOL and Delphi. Eventually, they all were forced to move towards the open internet that no one controlled (some slower than others). An "open source" Second Life could certainly represent the internet in such a scenario, taking away the more limited situation of Second Life, and allowing for much more interesting social and economic experiments.

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  • identicon
    Pope Ratzo, 30 Nov 2006 @ 4:03am

    Unless Linden Labs can get Second Life to actually WORK, I don't think it will become much of anything.
    It's shocking on how many computers the thing just does nothing. One of my clients bought a brand-new $1500 Dell and the direction keys don't move his SL character. He just sort of drifts, aimlessly, which is a lot like what happens on Second Life.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    SimplyGimp, 30 Nov 2006 @ 4:22am

    No Surprise

    There's a lot of online virtual worlds out there. Some of them very similar to Second Life, though none quite as popular. I've tried out one of them, since I had played a MMORPG before and thought it might be cool just to see what it's about. Well, now I don't feel so bad telling people I've played MMORPGs when there's something like Second Life out there. It's (and all types like it) one of the most boring and repetitive atmospheres to be in.

    People in these worlds tend to be overly competitive when it comes to making friends. Almost like the MySpace syndrome, where people just want to put as many people as possible on their list. Then there's the people that like the online sexual component of the games (trust me, it's a huge part of the game) and they spend most of their time talking to whoever they chose in an attempt to have 'virtual sex'. Lastly, there's the attention whores who like to make objects for the in-game community or try to be some outstanding online citizen. Either way, when it all boils down what you're left with is a bunch of people online for a very good reason. Then you must ask yourself if you really, REALLY want to spend time with these people?

    And no, I'm not sorry for stereotyping. People in these online communities are freaking insane for the most part, but I'm personally glad there's a place for them. Lets just try to keep it contained and not make too much news about it...

    As far as the items being bot-copied. No shock there, any software has flaws, this guy just got lucky and found one. Sure, he should be arrested, because we as a society are so depraved, that we've allowed this Second Life to place real world value on VIRTUAL ITEMS. So, every copy he made was in reality a piece of stolen property.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Andrew Pollack, 30 Nov 2006 @ 4:36am

    IMO, this is very perceptive

    I don't usually like tech articles that compare new things to old paradigms. They're overly simplistic and miss the point.

    In this case, however, I think you've hit the nail on the head in some ways. Second Life, like AOL, is bringing this concept and technology from the geek-only clubhouse to mass popularity. It is neither the "best" nor the most advanced technically -- at least from what I understand -- but it is the most mass-consumer friendly as is demonstrated easily enough by its rapid acceptance and popularity in the marketplace. (see Consumer Market Theory 101).

    The comparison is also useful in predicting its long term prospects. Other venues will become popular, technologies will merge and become standards, and perhaps one day S.L. will be just one 'neighborhood' in some larger virtual environment based on a more common standard. Nonetheless, it seems likely that this will remain a will traveled 'old world' city of the new world.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    brad, 30 Nov 2006 @ 4:55am

    Real World Value on Virtual Items

    Of course there is value to to virtual items.

    Photos are other art work posted online are indeed virtual, but they're still the artist's creation. Why should the author forfeit the ability to charge for those images simply because they're online and not on paper or canvas?

    Same with music. I laugh at all the kids who argue that they're "sharing" music. They're stealing the music -- unless the artist has approved the free distribution of their music. All the blabbering about "if I can sample it, I might be more likely to buy it" only speak to distribution and business model, not to the ownership of the material. They're argument is basically "please adopt a business model that lets me have this for free on the chance that it will increase sales for you.." Might be a valid business model, but that's the call of the owner of the material.

    In SL, if an artist spends hours making an object that others are unable to create (or unwilling to spend the time to make) shouldn't they be free to sell that item? If I spend hours creating a program in .net, and then want to sell it -- do I give up the right to earn money because it's a virtual product?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Solo, 30 Nov 2006 @ 9:16am

      Re: Real World Value on Virtual Items

      "I laugh at all the kids who argue that they're "sharing" music. They're stealing the music"

      You can't steal music. You can, however, engage in illegal activity which is called copyright infringement.

      And nothing is as simple as you describe.

      I listen to the radio and I don't pay for it. You can claim that commercials pay for it, but I'll counterclaim that I don't listen to the commercials.

      I can get a tape recorder and record from the radio. There may be a small 'tax' on the blank tape that may go to the RIAA, so can I consider myself covered. But it is covered by the fair use clause in the first place. Double whammy I guess.

      I can share that tape with you. You listen to it. Nobody pays anything to anyone. This is still fair used. The copyright is still held by the artist and you nor I own anything.

      Replace tape recorder with computer and swapping tapes with p2p file sharing. What do you get? The biggest piracy network of all time or the equivalent of the Radio?

      Music only sells because it is put in people's ears in the first place. It's hard to put music in my ear if I have to cough up $20 before I have a chance to hear it.

      Why doesn't the industry consider any 'free' distribution scheme as a promotional tune (that includes p2p, radio, free download promo) and make music affordable?

      "stealing music" is akin of shoplifting at tower records. File sharing is free publicity.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Brad, 30 Nov 2006 @ 11:12am

        Re: Re: Real World Value on Virtual Items

        "I listen to the radio and I don't pay for it. You can claim that commercials pay for it, but I'll counterclaim that I don't listen to the commercials."

        **Doesn't matter if you don't listen to them, the artist still gets paid. The rate paid for adds accounts for the % effectiveness of the add.

        "I can get a tape recorder and record from the radio. There may be a small 'tax' on the blank tape that may go to the RIAA, so can I consider myself covered. But it is covered by the fair use clause in the first place. Double whammy I guess."

        **You're wrong here. Fair use doesn't inlcude taping from the radio, it includes making backup copies of media you've purchased.

        "Replace tape recorder with computer and swapping tapes with p2p file sharing. What do you get? The biggest piracy network of all time or the equivalent of the Radio?"

        **You get piracy. On radio, even though you don't pay the artist still gets paid. If you record it and pass it around -- no one gets paid.

        "File sharing is free publicity"

        **You make my case. You make the judgement that sharing offers some value to those who created the media. In essence you're arguing that they should adopt a different business model. Nothing is free dude -- if your publicity amounted to anything they'd be willing to pay you for it.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Yme Bosma, 30 Nov 2006 @ 4:56am

    Croquet

    I guess in terms of vision Croquet best resembles a possible future for virtual environments like Second Life. It's open source and decentralized as opposed to SL's model, but may be lacks the commercial drive to make this vision become a reality.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Scottitude, 30 Nov 2006 @ 6:27am

    People need to get a first life! The fact that SL exists at all is incontrovertible proof that the world is full of idiots.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Nov 2006 @ 6:59am

      Re:

      yet you sit there wasting your time writing worthless comments about a game you state is for idiots...so who is the real idiot?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        JACKIE, 30 Nov 2006 @ 1:51pm

        Re: Re:

        Ha Ha..yeah what he said!! I guess no one asked him/them to be on their friend list lol... I am fascinated by the site as is my son, daughter and grandson. Something for everyone here.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Matthew, 30 Nov 2006 @ 6:39am

    There was an interesting article in the Guardian today that said the inevitable scenario with systems such as these is that eventually, once something like this becomes popular enough, the needs and wishes of the diverse userbase of the program will outweigh the fairly honest and idealistic original intentions of the creators. Eventually if enough people use it they're going to want the rules and regulations that protect them (to an extent) in the real world to apply to them here to.

    And I know this is picky, but the company name is "Linden Lab", not "Linden Labs" :p

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Nov 2006 @ 7:33am

    I agree that S.L. is a precursor to a new web revolution in a similar style to AOL. Ive been watching S.L. since it was in beta. Personally I always found it boring but I did recognize the value that it could bring to the web. After all I am a fan of snowcrash and the metaverse.

    More to the point I believe S.L. economic success (over $600,000 in transaction in sept) will get more people interested in exploiting the possibility of limitless resources (material resources obviously) that is inherant in these sort of economic models. It stands to reason that in the early unregulated days of this new virtual eco system many people willing to work hard and take risks will be rewarded with vast (or not so vast) wealth. Much like the early days of the net.

    AOL and Prodigy started it but the explosion occured because of netscape composer, the tool that let anyone make a website easily. Well we are on the cusp of another revolution. This time S.L. and Project Entropia are the vanguard and it looks like the same people that brought you composer are at it again over at http://multiverse.net . The above is their exact stated goal with that project. If you feel you missed the net bubble then get ready because round 2 is around the corner and there are and will be stories of riches made in these virtual worlds before things calm down.

    Business 101 SWOT analysis
    What are my Strengths?
    what are my Weaknesses?
    What are my OPPORTUNITIES?
    What are my THREATS?

    This is what each serious netizen should be asking themselves on the dawn of a new revolution in information exchange. Web 2.0 is already here next is the metaverse. Be vigilant and be prepared and we may just be reading about your success one day.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    normality, 30 Nov 2006 @ 8:23am

    have we lost it?

    THIS IS AN ONLINE FORA -- ARE YOU KIDDING?

    PEOPLE GRIPING OVER ONES AND ZEROS!!!!


    GO OUT THERE AND DONATE YOUR TIME


    GO SEE YOUR KID A BIT MORE

    COOK DINNER FOR YOUR GIRLFRIEND OR WIFE



    YOU SAD BUNCH OF PATHETIC TECHBARGAIN.NET BARGAIN HUNTING PS3 SEARCHING MASTURBATING MASSES ---- GO DO SOMETHING PRODUCTIVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Nov 2006 @ 9:43am

      Re: have we lost it?

      well one could say the same with you posting on this. Instead of spending time at home/work on these threads, go home and spend it with your family.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    The Game, 30 Nov 2006 @ 8:58am

    Its a freakin game

    Its just a damn game. If you going to try to make a "Living" off of selling items in a game for real profit, you deserve to get ripped off! And before you complain about that statement, 1. I have created items for games, I used to make a lot of tracks for MCM2. 2. I did it and still continue to create virtual items for fun, because it a FREAKIN game, its suppossed to be for fun. If you want to make money from games then go get a job from a Gaming Company!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Nov 2006 @ 10:00am

      Re: Its a freakin game

      I happen to play this "game" called Second Life, and guess what, can't say that I myself do, but between the "board" of people involved in this, 6 to be exact we net, after costs, around 8,000 USD a month. So i figure that is just over a grand a piece, or aproximatly 2.2 MILLION LINDENS! In other words, yes its a game, but a fun way to make a little bit of money. Not going to get rich, but i certainly have money to do what i want in the game, and one day when i have had enough of the game, i will just cash in all my money, and take the profit and move on to the next big craze. SECOND LIFE is growing at a rate of 30% A MONTH! That is crazy growth, and great potential. Land has gone up a lot, and Lindens have become worth more. Either way the game is trending in the right direction.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Brads, 30 Nov 2006 @ 11:14am

      Re: Its a freakin game

      "You deserve to get ripped off"

      ** Your opinion entirely. And the fact that you've made items for fun and given them away doesn't mean that everyone else has to. What, are you 12?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        The Game, 30 Nov 2006 @ 12:52pm

        Re: Re: Its a freakin game

        ** Your opinion entirely. And the fact that you've made items for fun and given them away doesn't mean that everyone else has to. What, are you 12?

        ^ Obviously you are one of the moron's who quit his real job to sit on his fat lazy ... to make money off a virtual world that you did not create! No Jackass I am not 12 but an avid gamer and programmer you twit. I like to make items, maps, etc.... for the pure enjoyment of the creativity and I enjoy to share that with my fellow gamers. Oh and by the way I do make money from my creations...It's called a real employer who pays me for my talents and what I make in my spare time I give away. SO YES MY OPINION DOES RULE!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    wolff000, 30 Nov 2006 @ 9:37am

    Hypocrites

    So SL is garbage just cause killing stuff isn't the goal? Sorry but someone playing WOW is no different than playing SL. I play SL but only when specific friends do, its a place to go hang out which we can't in the real world since they live in other countries now. I tried playing regularly and I did find it boring but saying everyone in it needs a real life is way overboard. Plenty of people use it to socialize normally not just look for cyber partners or make thousands of "friends". I have a buddy who actually makes a little over a hundred a month off of his "properties and businesses" in SL. I hardly consider that a waste of time. He does spend hours and hours creating things but he enjoys it. An artist is an artist whether creating clothes for avatars or paintings that hang in galleries. They both take creativity, talent and time. To those that just bashed people for playing a game I think you are the ones that need lives. Since you spend your time talking about other people that you say don't have them.

    Anyways the copybot thing is no big deal, it was bound to happen and I'm sure linden will find a way to put anticopy script in items.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rob, 30 Nov 2006 @ 9:37am

    open source effort sounds great

    I would love to see a serious open-source effort to create a Second-Life type online world. The big problem I have with SL is the stupid distributed architecture they use, where each server is responsible for one "tile" of land in the world. So a boringl, nearly empty tile that nobody visits gets the same amount of computing resources assigned to it as a very popular tile full of partying avatars. Result: horrible lag and poor scalability. This needs to be redesigned from the ground up, in such a way that busier tiles get more processing resources assigned to them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    csven, 30 Nov 2006 @ 9:58am

    PLM

    It's a shame so few people who either write or post about Second Life perceive it as nothing more than an online chatspace or a game. As a product designer who takes concept sketches to production CAD (and sometimes to the retail shelf), when I think of SL, I think of PLM, Product Lifecycle Management software. This past year companies that develop PLM were hot news on Wall Street. And the newest developments include moving toward interactive 3D spaces just like Second Life. Why not design/manage in an online collaborative 3D space, especially when companies are spread across the globe? It just makes practical sense.

    SL is extremely primitive to be sure, but it's not all that different from the very early internet (which gave birth to companies like AOL). Right now, I communicate with customers in Asia (sending CAD files back and forth, aso) almost entirely by email. Talk about primitive.

    SL could be (and is, to some degree) already being used for other things. Imagine that you're RW job is manager of a new factory. Now imagine you have to figure out the best way to lay out the interior (ala one of the "sim" games). Only instead of using a non-modifiable game, you go into a space like SL and drop specific injection molding machines (10-ton, 40-ton, whatever), task-specific assembly cells, and the rest. You can even hire cheap acting labor to simulate workers (people already "camp" doing tasks like sweeping floors in SL malls).

    Now imagine that you're in Seattle and the factory that's being built is in North Carolina; some people are on-site already. It would be a excellent use of SL to bring them into a virtual layout of the plant (including scripted, interactive objects) and get feedback. No, it's not Unreal Engine beautiful, but then most site plans are pretty basic. Which means they translate pretty nicely to SL.

    This scenario is one part of PLM. As the detail and functionality improves, more parts of traditional PLM could be done inside a space like SL.

    So for those who can't get beyond the simplest thoughts as to how this tech could be used, please think again.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    John Bonaccorso, 30 Nov 2006 @ 9:59am

    Our parents raised most of us right.

    Your way off base. Scarcity based digital economics will always work because most people ARE honest and do not steal. Don’t fall into the trap that stealing or illegal duplication or distribution is new. Roman Emperors often had to execute people or even villages for counterfeiting coins....and if Apple has taught us anything, people WILL pay for digital item (even music) that is already available freely almost everywhere on the web. People don’t want to steal, they want to pay. Our parents raised most of us right.

    John

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Reggie Crandall, 30 Nov 2006 @ 1:27pm

      Re: Our parents raised most of us right.

      Exactly! Who's fooling Who? The Digital Market simply exists because Demand continues! And protection of copyrights, as on www.9thx.com continues to prove that fact.

      Reg Crandall

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Stephen, 30 Nov 2006 @ 10:42am

    I think you're missing a big event that happened when AOL and Prodigy were getting big. The Internet became commercial. AOL did have a fence around users, there was no larger internet space to work in. Can we say the same for SL? Is there a common virtual world designed for Academia just waiting to become commercially available? Something that would let all the virtual worlds connect to one another very easily over a standard protocol? There's not and it's not in their interests right not to make such interconnections possible. SL will remain what AOL, MSN, and Prodigy would have been had the internet never come along to rain on their parade.

    As for the idea that Netscape Composer start "the explosion" is just laughable.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    PhysicsGuy, 30 Nov 2006 @ 10:45am

    Prodigy was great... they had the best setup for phishing of all time. even better than aol's... :x

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Donald Burnett, 30 Nov 2006 @ 10:46am

    Is it live or is it memorex..

    There is always going to be issues with there being an imperfect system. If it's made by humans other humans usually find a way around it.

    However this is about ethics and the human condition and free will. I would hope that everyone sees the value in monitary compensation for someone else's work and contributes.. However there's always going to be that element that doesn't.

    That's why the open source and closed source communities software are at odds with each other most of the time.. It goes to a base philosophical difference about the sharing of knowledge.. The reality doesn't always match the beliefs.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    csven, 30 Nov 2006 @ 10:47am

    ?

    "People don’t want to steal, they want to pay."

    I disagree. People *want* stuff, and people don't want to pay if they can get it free and easy.

    Now, why do people use iTunes? Perhaps it's because Apple offers convenience and some level of security. Plenty of people probably figure the trade off between using iTunes and using p2p makes it worth the cost; they might believe that they'll get a virus and so they use a service that reduces those chances. They might believe that using a torrent makes their PC a conduit for illegal stuff like child porn, and so they use a service to not allow that. Or more simply, they're UI-challenged and want the fastest, easiest path from the net to their mp3 player.

    Or maybe they believe that since "sharing" in the case of virtual goods means duplication and distribution, the overall market - which depends on providing incentives to creators - is negatively impacted over the long term as consumer behavior changes (leaving us with more American Idol mass consumable crap as the labels continue to scramble for business models to maintain their over-reaching control).

    None of those is about people *wanting* to pay. They make a choice imo most likely based on other factors.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Little Gray, 30 Nov 2006 @ 6:00pm

    Open Sourcing SL

    I read somewhere that Linden Labs (second life developers) hope to make SL virtual online protocol as ubiquitous as FTP, E-mail, and WWW. Apparently, the plan is to release an open source server and client .. if you don't like Second Life, it shouldn't be too hard for you to create you're googilion life.
    Second Life already is the AOL of online virtual worlds. It's heavily promoted, and, seems to crash a lot. The second life client is pretty buggy, at least on mid range systems.
    Nevertheless, I find it tremendously fun and not all Goreans, BSDM, Furries, camping, griefers, and Trekkies. If you're going to characterize it as a game -- and not a way to extent a RL business or interest -- then it's definately a thinking person's puzzle type game.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Little Gray, 30 Nov 2006 @ 6:01pm

    Open Sourcing SL

    I read somewhere that Linden Labs (second life developers) hope to make SL virtual online protocol as ubiquitous as FTP, E-mail, and WWW. Apparently, the plan is to release an open source server and client .. if you don't like Second Life, it shouldn't be too hard for you to create you're googilion life.
    Second Life already is the AOL of online virtual worlds. It's heavily promoted, and, seems to crash a lot. The second life client is pretty buggy, at least on mid range systems.
    Nevertheless, I find it tremendously fun and not all Goreans, BSDM, Furries, camping, griefers, and Trekkies. If you're going to characterize it as a game -- and not a way to extent a RL business or interest -- then it's definately a thinking person's puzzle type game.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    NemeSys, 30 Nov 2006 @ 6:27pm

    Second Life is Linden's Business

    Linden Labs SELL a service, people pay for it. It does not "too close", it's just a game. I do support software freedom and the GNU ideals, but com'on people! If you like the game, buy it; if you don't like it, buy something else.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    csven, 30 Nov 2006 @ 8:00pm

    for the record

    "If you like the game, buy it; if you don't like it, buy something else."

    You realize that it's free, don't you? The only people who pay are the one's who "own" land. Increasingly, people go in free, make stuff, sell it, then rent land from a land baron. So there's no "if you don't like, buy something else" at all.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    blah, 1 Dec 2006 @ 10:56am

    Second Life is the stupidest thing on the entire internet. Wake up when your "Snow Crash" cyberpunk fantasy is over.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bailee Deveron, 11 Dec 2006 @ 1:42pm

    Second life ain't that good you got to have like a high tech computer there and boombang you just have to have a computer.plus on second life you got to pay money to pay. when you can walk out your front door and chat with people these virtual world games aint really that fun.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    putdownpete, 9 Jan 2007 @ 1:54am

    Good Article, but real issue is sex/intimacy

    This was an excellent article.

    Why would you want to help Linden, help you, to help them to figure out the boundaries of sex, intimacy and IP? To help them make money off you?

    Tell Linden this, when you want to open up your internal AI source code and put a supercomputer in place to animate the user level that is open-source interrogatable, let me know.

    Til then, this all sounds like Big Brother to me.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    internet12 (profile), 22 May 2010 @ 9:27am

    chiropractic internet marketing

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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