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Mozilla The Internet

Only 25% of Firefox Downloaders Are 'Active Users' 294

bheer writes "The Guardian points out a page on the Mozilla wiki noting that 'only 50% of the people downloading Firefox actually try it out, and only a further half of those continue to use it actively.' ZDNet has some commentary on the browser's retention rate. While a 25% retention rate isn't necessarily bad, Mozilla is trying to improve these figures with a 12 point plan that includes more TV and media advertising, a better start page and several installation tweaks."
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Only 25% of Firefox Downloaders Are 'Active Users'

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  • Why download? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by oxidiser ( 1118877 ) on Friday August 10, 2007 @02:45PM (#20186399)
    Why bother downloading it if you aren't going to try it? Is this a common thing? I can only recall maybe a couple of things in my entire life I've downloaded and not checked out.
    • Re:Why download? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by moore.dustin ( 942289 ) on Friday August 10, 2007 @02:55PM (#20186541) Homepage
      Of course this is common. These people not using FF after downloading are the same people that have AOL icons on their desktop they never use. Have old trial version software all over their comp, pre-installed or not. As nerds and geeks, we usually uninstall stuff we do not need, but you are telling you that you have installed and used everything you have downloaded? I know I run a pretty tight ship when it comes to my machines, but I know I have downloaded things and not used them for whatever reason.

      Back to the average Joe, they do this way more often then us. They get the link to download for whatever reason and download it with good intention, but not everyone installs it. Of those that do install, they try to use it, realize it is too different or whatever and go back to IE without bothering to uninstall... that is not important to them. To them, having 100 programs installed is the same as 1 - they know no better.

      If you realize that you, being a slashdot reading computer user, are not the "average computer user" then you may be able to put these numbers into perspective and understand how they came to be.
    • Re:Why download? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Scoth ( 879800 ) on Friday August 10, 2007 @02:59PM (#20186601)
      I've been sitting with "average" users while they show me something or try something and you'd be surprised how many of them click on something that sounds neat that they want to try, it downloads, they close the download window, then say something like "Where'd it go? Oh well..." then move on to something else. This was partly the rational for Firefox's default to download straight to the desktop.

      I'd bet some people are downloading the installer, lose it, and just never bother to find it.
      • There's also a large camp of people to whom the term "web browser" means nothing, and to whom "the internet" and "the web" are synonymous with "AOL" or "MSN". See also: my grandma; series of tubes.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      I use FF myself and love it. And every chance I get, I install it (with permission) on computers belonging to family, friends and business contacts. But I am absolutely sure that not all of them actually use it as their default browser after that. Some of them try it out for a few days, then shift back to IE. And I totally respect that, since having a CHOICE is what really matters. If there are many more like me, we are partially "guilty" of statistics in question. We download FF on many occasions, and not
      • And every chance I get, I install it (with permission) on computers belonging to family, friends and business contacts.

        Fool! If we're going to win this fight, we have to play dirty! You know what that means? Surreptitiously installing Firefox on every machine you can get your hands on, permission be damned! Oh, and remove the IE icon from the desktop. Better yet, make the shortcut to Firefox have the blue "e" as its icon. Actually, I think I did that at some point in the past on my parent's machine.

  • by Jack9 ( 11421 ) on Friday August 10, 2007 @02:46PM (#20186417)
    I see about 80% retention in the past. Granted I'm in tech, so you might think that geeks usually go for the most reliable technology that offers the best tools and such, but I dont introduce FF to techs...they are already using it. I see about 80% retention from non-techs that I introduced it to. Now that tabbing is a feature of both browsers, 25% still seems very low.
    • by Khaed ( 544779 )
      I've also introduced it to people, mostly when they have a problem brought on by IE. As far as I am aware, none of them has turned back. Most of them are college professors/students, though, and that may skew things. (Most are not, however, computer science people)

      One big thing they should fix already: I don't care what their reasoning is, the memory "leak" is a problem. It should never swell up and take up over 150MB of RAM. Sure, some computers have RAM to spare -- the average person with a cheap com
      • I converted my parents and in-laws, put a link on the desktop that says "browser," and haven't heard word one since. I doubt they know they're using Firefox, and I KNOW they don't care.

        And I concur: The "leak" needs fixing.
        • by jc42 ( 318812 )
          The "leak" needs fixing.

          I'll second (third?) that. This morning, I killed and restarted both firefox and seamonkey on my Mac. They had both grown to over 600 MB since I restarted them about 3 days ago, and the machine had slowed to a crawl. It's fast again now, but I know I'll have to do it again Monday at the latest.

          It does seem that, with both of them, it's sites that run videos that seem to cause the biggest permanent jumps in memory size. So it may not be the browsers themselves that are the main pr
    • by AlexBirch ( 1137019 ) on Friday August 10, 2007 @03:33PM (#20187133) Homepage
      Both of my ex girlfriends are using Firefox... I'm glad to see that our relationships weren't wasted completely.
    • > 25% still seems very low.

      If the result (25% of the estimated installed base) is below the big websites' statistics of user-agent header, then the result or the estimated installed base is surely inaccurate, because the referer doesn't count all the firefoxes with a doctored user agent header.

      I'd say that figuring out the downloads (i get it from apt), and then the "activity" is the wrong approach. Active users by definition visit sites. See sites statistics. Get bottom figure. Find how many firefox use
  • by Andrewkov ( 140579 ) on Friday August 10, 2007 @02:47PM (#20186427)
    I use Firefox as my main browser, but I've downloaded it many times to different PC's (which I may use only occasionally). I wonder how this affects their numbers.
    • by mhall119 ( 1035984 ) on Friday August 10, 2007 @02:48PM (#20186441) Homepage Journal
      It's ok, I've installed it on multiple PC's from the same download, so I cancel you out.
      • But I cancel you and many like you out because I download the updates directly from the site, every minor revision, instead of downloading automatically through the browser. Oh, and I have it on 6 different machines that appear to come from one IP, 12 from another, and some machines have multiple copies installed (dual boot, etc).
        • I download the updates directly from the site, every minor revision

          Oh, and I have it on 6 different machines that appear to come from one IP, 12 from another
          I think you cancel yourself out. Unless you are the sole user of > 18 different machines.
          • How do I cancel myself out? 6 of the machines are mine and very few (if any) others use them. The other 12 I manage on a network and I personally apply all the updates. But again, these 18 machines are seen as 18 downloads but if checked by IP, only 2 uses. If checked by IP and version, about 7 uses... Also, where do they get the data from to decide if it is used?
      • by Skapare ( 16644 )

        I use it on 2 computers without having downloaded it at all (it comes with Slackware) ... nyah nyah nyah!

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by raju1kabir ( 251972 )

      Likewise. I have three laptops here, plus a few virtual machines, all of which are different platforms and so required their own Firefox downloads.

      But only one of those gets 95% of the use, the others probably appear to be relatively "inactive". In reality it's because those machines are only used for testing in IE, or surfing on the john, or whatever.

  • by decriptor ( 762523 ) on Friday August 10, 2007 @02:48PM (#20186433) Homepage
    What about the times that people download it once (IT shops) and install it on hundreds of computers(ok not always that many, but enough to mess up these stats)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by lawpoop ( 604919 )

      What about the times that people download it once (IT shops) and install it on hundreds of computers(ok not always that many, but enough to mess up these stats)

      Wouldn't that boost the numbers of long-term users?

      If you have a home computer, and the user downloads firefox and keeps using it, you have a long-term usage ratio of 100% per download.

      If a sysadmin downloads a single copy of firefox, installs it on 10 computers, and 3 long-term users develop out of that, you then have a 300% ratio per download. However, you only have a 30% ratio per installation. One download, 10 installs, 3 users.

    • by Skapare ( 16644 )

      What about the people that never download it, but got it as part of their distribution? Do we have to go download it to make it legal?

  • Sometimes it's easy to forget that us 'geeks' are a small community. I can't imagine downloading software and then never even installing it or trying it. Whenever I do install a browser the very first thing I do is go to where I want my homepage to be and set it. I get annoyed when software defaults to 'intrusive' behavior.
    But apparently if they want wide spread usage - they need to look at people who are not like me.
    • "I can't imagine downloading software and then never even installing it or trying it."

      I do that all the time. If I search for forftware that may solve a problem, I'll install them just untill one of them really solves it, never using the remaining.

  • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) * on Friday August 10, 2007 @02:50PM (#20186457)
    Person A computer really messes up.
    Geek B fixes it and puts firefox to help them out.
    Geek B tells them to use Firefox so their computer doesn't mess up.
    Person A Ignores Geek B advice because what does he know he only fixes computers.
    Person A Computer gets really messed up.
    • by msh104 ( 620136 )
      Geek B get's to fix his machine again...
    • "Person A Ignores Geek B advice because what does he know he only fixes computers."

      Yeah I see that. One of the things I do to reduce it is to point the IE icon on the desktop and tool bar at Firefox. Some of them never even notice.

  • by Reason58 ( 775044 ) on Friday August 10, 2007 @02:52PM (#20186507)
    1. We admitted we were powerless over IE--that our lives had become unmanageable.
    2. Came to believe that a browser greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
    3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of Firefox as we understood Him.
    4. Made a google search and fearless moral inventory of bloat.
    5. Admitted to Firefox, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our standards breaking.
    6. Were entirely ready to have Firefox remove all these defects of browser.
    7. Humbly asked Firefox to remove our security vulnerabilities.
    8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
    9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
    10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly installed a patch for it.
    11. Sought through addons and extensions to improve our conscious contact with Firefox, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the plugins to carry that out.
    12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to IE-aholics, and to practice these principles in all our browsing.
  • Alright! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by iknownuttin ( 1099999 ) on Friday August 10, 2007 @02:55PM (#20186545)
    Ok. I have Firefox When I first downloaded it, all of a sudden I started getting these "update errors".

    Now, being a good F/OSS geek, I went up online to find out WTF the problem was. Well, there was this series of directions to follow. I followed them to the tee. Still nothing. Then I saw a post about my "Firewall" being the problem. Well, I turned it off - no change. BUT, when I was logged in as an Admin, no problem. Interesting. The Firefox folks were insistent that it's my firewall.

    So, I went in and gave the Mozilla directory full access rights (this is in Windows XP) and everything is working now.

    So, is Firefox on my machine secure?
    Would the typical user have to deal with this security problem with IE - (NO)?
    How many of you are going to call me or imply that I'm an idiot for not being able to use Firefox correctly?

    Users want to know.

    • Re:Alright! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 10, 2007 @04:27PM (#20188005)
      The typical Windows user is logged on as an Administrator, out of the box. Therefore the typical Windows user will never see this issue, nor need to work around it.

      Those who don't login as an administrator either know what they're doing (and therefore have the skills to understand the problem), or they're a large enough business that their IT department should be familiar with problems like this. Firefox is hardly the only program that expects to be able to write to it's program directory, which isn't allowed by normal users.

      Now, logically, since you are a technical user, and set your primary account as a normal user, you should know that normal users can't write to %ProgramFiles%. Therefore when you attempt to run an update, that you know damn well requires writing files out to %ProgramFiles%, you shouldn't be surprised to see problems or errors.

      Instead of giving your normal user account full access to the program directory, you should maintain security and install updates after logging in as an administrator. The normal user can see when an update is available, which gives you the push to login as an administrator and install it, but obviously the normal user shouldn't be able to do it.

      That everyone pointed to every other problem under the sun instead of this illustrates the overwhelming number of Windows users who run as administrator. I've got a couple dozen programs installed that refuse to run if the logged in account isn't an administrator. At least Firefox manages functions just fine for everything except program updates.
    • Would the typical user have to deal with this security problem with IE - (NO)?
      I dunno about anything else, but in no way shape or form would a typical user be running with a non-privileged account on XP. Vista, maybe, but definitely not XP. If you know enough to install software as Administrator, and but run day to day with a non-privileged account, then you are not a typical user.
  • they say

    Note that Active Daily Users is an estimate of the number of users who are using Firefox on a daily basis.

    And well, i couldn't find much else on their statistics. What does 'try it out' even mean? They have solid numbers on how many are downloaded, but I'm interested in how exactly they're coming up with these statistics. Does firefox report to them when it's being used? I don't think so... number of people downloading the upgrades? Maybe...

    I know I've downloaded it several times for various co
  • by Tribbin ( 565963 ) on Friday August 10, 2007 @02:57PM (#20186573) Homepage
    Only 5% of Internet Explorer users intentionally use Internet Explorer over alternatives.
    • The use of the word 'intentionally' makes your statistics plausible, the unintentional people that just use what they got is probably still the majority, though. News of the day: amount of downloads and usage are not the same measurement methods. However, server logs catch the http headers sent by the browsers, still one of the more usable methods of measurement (except for browsers that stealth themselves as other browsers).
  • Not unusual (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Friday August 10, 2007 @02:57PM (#20186577) Homepage
    I work for a company that offers a downloadable product with a monthly subscription. We find that people actually login, enter their credit card number, download the software, and never run it. There's another group who never click the download button. It's really quite amazing. We've worked hard to make it as easy as possible - make sure the download link is visible on all screen resolutions, browsers, not require scripting or the latest softare, etc.
    • What you are seeing could be criminals testing the stolen credit card numbers (to see which ones are still valid before making a large purchase). This happens to be a huge problem for sites such as requiring designated abuse teams.
  • Not convinced the 25% is a true figure -- although admittedly download stats are not a true measure of anything other than downloads. Some people download several times if they have some problem, just as one example of skewness.

    It would be interesting to see what the figures are for site visit stats and how that's grown, say for Google or similar. I imagine the Guardian's stats are now skewed by lots of Firefox users navigating to the article.

    I have some concerns about the 12 point plan. As a non-pro
  • I have to say I have installed FF on more than a few computers for friends. They almost always try it out of curiosity, but I often find them back using explorer again. Mostly, because they are familiar with MS layouts and they aren't into diddling with software as a hobby. Especially true with people my parents age. They don't like different.

    I try to use FF, but if I have a complaint, it is not the memory thing (got lots of that), but it is that often FF just seems to stops loading pages and I have to rest
    • I experience troubles switching between tabs...the application simply does react to my mouse-click for seconds at a time. The thing also pegs one of my processors nearly all the time.

      FireFox is going to lose people if they don't focus on bug fixes and avoid the temptation of feature creep.
    • by GeckoX ( 259575 )
      The other problem I encounter is the 'Ohh, Shiney!' camp.

      They always stick with IE...all those horrendous toolbars and crap addons they install don't work in FF...even if they are completely useless, or worse even...some people just can't go without!!!

      Got one friend that's completely hooked on IncrediMail (bloated POS btw, totally in the 'Ohh, Shiney!' camp). Always having problems with it. Endlessly. Every Single Time I'm There I show her her gmail account again...she uses it once...and then back to Incred
      • If they insist to use damaging SW/sites, tell them: "no support or start paying me or the computer store"
        Your time to them is free.
        Only when it hurt the pocketbook will they start changing.
        Why shouldn't computer mechanics get paid?

        Car mechanics get their friends to pay them to fix their cars.
        If the car mechanics tell their friends: "stop speeding over speed-bumps", would the friends listen?
        You bet! it cost them money!

        Face it. You are being used!!
        • by GeckoX ( 259575 )
          While your points are in general correct, they aren't exactly relevant to what I was discussing entirely, or at least, you're making far more assumptions based on what I actually said than is reasonable. I wasn't complaining about time commitments...for all you know I spend an hour a year helping people out. You also have no idea whether I already DO cut off supporting people that insist on doing things their preferred way.

          Case in point: My 'IncrediMail' friend. I drop by for a visit once every couple of mo
    • I try to use FF, but if I have a complaint, it is not the memory thing (got lots of that), but it is that often FF just seems to stops loading pages and I have to restart it. I think it is more of an adblock thing, but that is speculation on my part. It could also be the plethora of badly coded sites out there.

      I see that too with Firefox. After a while (sometimes as little as a day), I'll click links and nothing will happen - the wheel will spin for half a second but it clearly isn't trying to load anythin

  • I made my first comment without reading the full article. Now that I read it, I'm thoroughly amused!!!

    It seems that Mozilla is "finally get it", and in the process, going against some of the things that the OSS community generally detests. I'll comment on their 12-step program (just the ones i find interesting):

    1. Change Firefox icon label to closer resemble action of getting to web
    Wow! They finally realized that the name "Firefox" doesn't make ANY connection to the internet for standard users.
  • And how many IE users have consciously chosen to be IE users? I wouldn't brag about a market share which is based on people's ignorance, laziness and waning market monopolies. Firefox has a superior product and every one of those 25% are users for life. IE on the other hand can only wish to slow down the eventual avalanche of switchers.
  • Web browsers have largely become a commodity. There is nothing preventing people from easily switching between IE, Opera and Firefox as their tastes shift. A user may hate IE 6's lack of tabs, do Mozilla for a while then stick with IE again when they use IE 7. Who knows why they leave, what do know is that shifting back and forth is very easy. That's one thing that Firefox has helped foster, and having that be the case could do a lot to weaken the importance of IE having a large marketshare since IE would n
  • I'm not surprised. (Score:2, Informative)

    by PJ1216 ( 1063738 ) *
    I put Firefox on my dad's computer. I later went back to it to find he went back to IE. I asked him why and he said it didn't have yahoo.

    If these are the kind of people they're losing, I'm not all that upset about it. Too many people assume that their homepage is part of their browser. I tried to explain to him that yahoo only opened up as default on IE because it was set to be his homepage and that I could do the same thing with Firefox. He then made up some excuse that he's fine with IE and doesn't
    • But yes, I agree, people are reluctant to change. I recently had to deal with a non-geeks computer... *pauzes while the slashdot audience groans ssympathetically* who kept installing crap software including spyware, trojans etc etc. The guy is also poor so his old computer grinds to a halt pretty damn fast whenever he installed the latest crap again. Offcourse he uses IE and was extremely reluctant to change. He was used to IE and that was what he used and therefore was going to use.

      The cure? Well A: I tol

  • The way I see it... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by enc0der ( 907267 )
    After watching my grandparents navigate their computer, I am wondering if 50% of the people that download it can't find where it saved the file and give up in frustration cause they just don't 'get' computers :) Yes, they use AOL as well. I wish I were kidding too, but I'm not. My family (in the past) has used me for tech support, and I was always getting the 'I saved this file but I cannot find it anywhere' and when I showed them, 'hey look, it's on your desktop' they were dumbfounded (as was I in how
    • can't find where it saved the file

      I've used FireFox exclusively for years, and I still run into machines with even the new browser that don't tell you where the f@ck the file went. /rant
  • by andrewd18 ( 989408 ) on Friday August 10, 2007 @03:21PM (#20186961)
    Pfft. That 12-Step Retention Plan sucks. Here's a better one:

    1. Change Firefox icon label to closer resemble action of getting to web. No longer shall the icon on the desktop be called "Mozilla Firefox", but instead, "U CAN HAZ INTRN3T".

    2. Force the Firefox icon to easier to find location. <img src="firefox.png" alt="U CAN HAZ INTRN3T" height="768" width="1024" /> Problem solved.

    3. Alter the default browser settings path for better user choice. Embed an audio file of Arnold Schwarzenegger saying, "Use Firefox! Use it now!" into the IE startup path.

    4. Major outbound brand marketing program driving brand recognition and differentiation. A full page NY Times ad with the "Walkthrough Cat" [], its text changed to "GIT UR INTERN3T ON".

    5. Improve download page and first run pages. Download page must be similar to NY Times ad, so the imbeciles we're trying to reach can actually remember wtf they're downloading. The first run page must have "HAI! U GOT INTRN3T!!" in large letters, preferably with blink tags and links to pron.

    6. Launch SUMO [] If Firefox sees another bloated browser installed on the computer, it will challenge it to a wrestling match, the winner becoming the new default browser. A small side-effect may be a userbase increase in the Asian market.

    7. Make common plug-ins work out of the box. The MegaRotic Toolbar will now be part of the initial install, as will an RSS feed of

    8. Make add-ons and personas more accessible. The Mozilla Store will now ship free wizard hats and robes with every Firefox download.

    9. Make the web feel more human. Male users will find their browser displaying all text in capital letters approximately once every twenty-eight days. Female users will find their browser doesn't remember their user preferences or date of birth form fields.

    10. Improve messaging through communication channels. We will also improve messaging through non-communication channels. Yes, our code monkeys are that good. 11. Stickier start page. If you left-click anywhere on the new start page, it will take three right-clicks to get your cursor to move again.

    12. Change Firefox icon image to closer resemble action of getting to web. In keeping with steps 1 and 7, the new icon will show Ceiling Cat, as we all know what most of our users will be doing on the internet.
  • I've installed Firefox for various family members and made it their default browser. I go back later and see that they've reverted to using IE and I've never really gotten an explanation as to why. Usually they're not sure how it happened.

    I know there are a lot of viruses/trojans that install as browser helper objects and thus only affect IE users. I suspect some of these probably revert the default browser back to IE.

    Personally, I can't stand IE. But then, I never bothered to upgrade to 7.0. I find the abi
    • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )
      Simple. They go to a site that doesn't work with Firefox like their bank. "I am not blaming Firefox for that. Some IDIOT coded just for IE".
      They switch to IE to use that site.
      IE says IE isn't your default browser. Make IE your default browser.
      Click Ok.....
  • by Steauengeglase ( 512315 ) on Friday August 10, 2007 @03:21PM (#20186973)
    I can't help but wonder if this comes from the proverbial, "Jimmy" downloading it on his Mom and Dad's computer because they keep complaining about "The Blue E" getting hijacked. Jimmy tells them to, "Click on the Fox", but they keep clicking on "The Blue E" because to them it is, "Getting on the internet." Similar events happen with Jimmy's girlfriend and Boss.

    The only other scenario I can think of is that there are a lot of web developers out there who are still trying to get it to work in IE.
  • It's worth noting the FF+Google Toolbar pays webmasters who supply links for the download and install. How much of the discrepancy is because of webmasters scamming the pay-for-install system?
  • Bundle (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sufijazz ( 889247 ) on Friday August 10, 2007 @03:37PM (#20187191)
    Users are inherently lazy. If you ask them to download a software product and learn to use it, you have already lost a bulk of the potential market share.

    The key is to bundle it together. Have Firefox pre-installed on computers. Make is hassle-free for the user. Make it a no-brainer. Dell installing GooglePack (which includes Firefox) on every PC they ship - that's a start. Yahoo messenger downloads should bundle Firefox (side note - this can be installed as an opt-in or opt-out component. While opt-in i.e. checkbox unchecked by default is a more "considerate" option, opt-out is better if you want to increase downloads) In any case, hyperlinks from Yahoo messenger chat windows should open in Firefox windows if FF is installed. Ditto with Trillian.

    Yes, this is a sort of militant technique (the same technique that MS used to make IE a monopoly). But let's face it - it's not the geeks but the users who don't know about FF that need FF most because they are most vulnerable to the security cracks in IE.

    Some other things they can do: bundle the most useful extensions with the product (Map This, AdBlock, Fetch text URL, DictionarySearch, BugMeNot, SearchPluginHacks), reduce the memory it hogs, interactive tutorial. They need to get out of the "of the geeks, by the geeks, for the geeks" mentality.
  • My company will be rolling out Firefox within the next month, and we will not support anyone using IE (yay). I cannot tell you how happy that made me, when I heard the news.
  • can install Firefox on a Windows user's system, but until you remove that IE icon from wherever they're used to clicking on it (desktop, quick launch, program files, etc.), they're not going to use Firefox.

    I spent a long night cleaning thousands of pieces of spyware off this user's workstation. Installed Firefox. The next day I showed him how to use FF. Explained that his spyware problem would be greatly minimized by using FF instead of IE. User agreed to stay the hell away from IE. One week later I'
  • they'd leave my damn homepage setting ALONE after an update...

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