Is this the future of domain names?

names of london

James Stevens was born in Singapore, the son of a military chaplain. Educated at boarding school in England, James (who had always excelled in Mathematics & Physics) fell in love with technology when, in the early 1980s, the school acquired some Apple ][ PCs. He later took a holiday job writing accounting systems, on the Apple ][, for small businesses at an Apple dealership in the Barbican. Although, technically, his first paid work in computers was aged 16, selling games for the 8-bit home computers that had become popular in the mid-1980s.

James went on to study computer science at university where he first came into contact with Unix system and immediately was taken by their openness and flexibility.

After working at a software house and a relational database vendor, James went into freelance contracting working in the City of London, specialising in high-speed database applications and front-office trading systems mostly using Sybase on Solaris.

While at Goldman Sachs in 1994 he worked on a project to provide server monitoring and management using a web interface and could immediately see the potential of this new technology.

Leaving Goldmans he started a Linux research company specialising in network appliances, embedded operating systems and remote web management. That was sold ten years later to his business partner when he was offered the role of CTO at the dot-IO domain name registry – which also managed dot-AC, dot-SH and (under contract) dot-TM.

While there he jointly founded CommunityDNS (www.cdns.net) to exploit the security advantages of the then emerging Anycast network technology. Using his experience in embedded operating systems to design and create the hardened & encrypted operating system for the CommuityDNS platform, as well as implement a full rewrite of the dot-IO domain name registry system.

With his heart still in entrepreneurship, he left the CTO role to found Names.of.London Ltd to exploit innovative and imaginative new techniques in human readable domain names, made possible by the release of the wave of new top level domains.

 

Mike: I like the idea of what you are doing with names.of.london.  Tell me how you came up with the concept.

James:  One morning, I heard a radio ad for dot-LONDON on a local station and immediately realised there was an opportunity to run a second-level registry using “of.london” – I also thought it would be cool to own “mayor.of.london”

I was originally going to launch with “of.london” & “in.london”, but I wasn’t allowed “in.london” as “in”, for all the new-GTLD, is currently blocked by India as they fear confusion with dot-IN.

So I designed an algorithm to look for other combinations that would work, for creating three word phrases, and the one that came out head-and-shoulder above all the others was “for.sale”.

It cost quite a bit to buy, but it needs no explanation.

 

Mike: It reminds me of co.com. Have you collaborated or learned from the people behind that effort? What similarities and differences do you see?

James:  Those domains were/are all run by CentralNIC – they were one of the customers of CommunityDNS (www.cdns.net) while I was CTO there, so I know Gavin Brown, the chief techie there, pretty well.

I always liked the idea, but felt it lacked a certain something. It seems to be pitching itself as a second-class choice – you’d only buy it if you can’t get the dot-COM.

Clearly from a purely technical perspective they are basically the same business model, but I feel the additional concept of turning domain names into human readable phrases gives mine an edge. I feel what I am doing offers something quite different from anything else on the market.

As far as I know, nobody else is offering a similar service to me.
I’ve not spoken to anybody there about this project, or collaborated in anyway, but I have learned a lesson from the problems they have had with “gb.com” in terms of ownership and control of the parent domain.

“gb.com” is (was?) rented from a third party and when there was a dispute the original owner would disable all the names – this kills the reputation of /all/ their other domains – for this reason I would only sell from parent names I own directly.

 

Mike: How does Google and the other search engines treat the names? Are there any SEO benefits or penalties for this type of URL?

James:  They seem to be treated very favourably.  We get top-5 ranking on many terms where we clearly have absolutely no relevant content. I think this is due to the high levels of type-in traffic we get.

Most (55%) of the people using our phrases are under 35. They don’t remember the original dot-COM boom, so domain names mean something different to them.

This can make buying one of our names one of the cheapest ways to draw targetted visitors to your site – “pugs.for.sale” is $25/yr and will get you about 650 targetted visitors per year for your $25.

Although Facebook’s ad rates are pretty low, it would cost you quite a lot more to get that number of /targetted/ click-throughs.

 

Mike: Again, similar to co.com, are these second level domains in which registrations are at the third level?

James:  Right – but, as with “co.com”, my domain names can work exactly the same as any domain at the second level, if you want to use them that way – just like “co.uk”, which used to be the de-facto standard for UK businesses.

Where one of the names coincides with an existing brand – e.g. “links.of.london” or “just.for.men” – I see that as the most obvious use. I like the way the domain name is just the brand and nothing else, really makes it stand out.

However, with “phrases.for.sale” we’re offering a service more like bit.ly where you use the phrase to re-direct people to existing content – but unlike bit.ly our phrases are easy to read & easy to remember.

For example, if you have a Nike store on ebay you an use “nikes.for.sale” to redirect to your store – its much shorter & memorable than the full URL – but still clickable in Twitter and attractive URLs get 34% more click-through (according to bit.ly).

Or you could use a phrase like “break.from.work” to (say) promote a snack bar – linking users to online content offering a competition or coupon etc.

 

Mike: What does it cost to register a name with you?

James:  Like most new-GTLDs, it depends on the name. But all prices are capped at $300 new ($250 renew) and we don’t have a massive number at that level.

However, “.for.sale” has flat pricing, every name is $25 – about 10 are reserved – otherwise, if its not sold its available & $25.

If I thought it would boost sales, I would be happy to drop prices to any sustainable level, but I don’t think pricing is currently the barrier to adoption as we also have a 30-day free trial.

 

Mike: How many registrations have you received to date?

James:  Although I started the business about 18 months ago, it was only at the end of Jan-2017 that I left my “day job” to work on this full time.

So right now sales are slowly picking up.

I’ve had a lot of positive feedback and I think I’ve been able to provide solid responses to legitimating concerns.

 

Mike: What are some examples of names that are in use?

James:  We have a Chinese buyer who has bought a few clothing related names, and some domainers who have bought some property and domaining related names.

One buyer has signed up for an affiliate program and has bought names to redirected to that, which seems quite an interesting business model.

e.g. domain.for.sale redirects to a Uniregister affiliate.

We’re getting over 600,000 visitors a year to our domains, which are often really targetted (like pugs.for.sale), so the lack of sales can be really frustrating!
Mike: Do you think this is the future? Are you acquiring other names to use in a similar manner and grow the business?

James:

Yes – I’m convinced human-readable domain names will be a big part of the future direction of the domain industry.

It feels like the time when we switched from the geeky old MS-DOS 8.3 files names to the freedom of full Windows file names – no longer were we tied to the computer code file names of the 1980s.

You can already see the human-readable combinations like “golf.club”, “coffee.club”, “diet.expert” fetching some of the highest prices.

The new-GTLD registries need to find new markets for domain names if they are going to sell in anything like the numbers they want/need. Naming websites is a limited market – they need to get a lot more creative and innovative.

I think that’s where names.of.london can come in – domain names can become like promo-codes that you can enter into any phone or browser to be taken directly to the content that relates to the promotion you saw.

We are also already seeing businesses rebranding to include the dot as part of the company brand. This started with some dot-COM, but is more common with the new-GTLDs.

I have a list of existing names I want to buy and, if the concept becomes universally accepted, registering my own new-GTLDs would be the eventual aim of the business.

I am aware its a problem, only being able to offer a specific range of endings. If a TLD was registered for the purpose of turning into phrases you could guarantee that any phrase ending in that word could be available to buy. Whether ICANN would agree to that is a different matter, but I don’t give up easily.

Right now I would buy a premium name that has good potential (I am currently negotiating on one), and I sometimes buy ones that are dirt cheap even where they have limited potential, but mostly my priority now is getting my sales up.

Its a myth that a good product sells itself – if nobody’s heard of it, no matter how good its is, nobody’s going to buy it.

 

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Passion and Grit over Profit

domain name investing

Ethan Schmidt is the founder and Chief Technology Officer of GymBull.com, a new online community dedicated to fitness. On GymBull, gyms, personal trainers, and athletes can easily search, share, and save workout and nutrition information. It is a great way for those in the fitness industry to boost their online presence and showcase their talents, and it is an extrememly usefull resource for anyone looking for a collection of varied and specific workouts and meal to improve their personal performance.

 

Mike: Ethan, tell me about GymBull.com. What makes your site unique from other fitness sites or social media platforms?

Ethan:  Mike, the short answer is that unlike other social media platforms, GymBull is specifically designed for fitness enthusiasts; unlike other fitness-related sites, GymBull is fully-fledged, even-level community. Whereas on Facebook of Twitter or Instagram, where many people still find fitness content, users must sift through millions of cat pictures and political screeds to find workouts and meal recipes and he content creators must fight through these same distractions to reach their audience, on GymBull there is no such noise; everything is exactly what you’re looking for from a fitness perspective. In that same vein, GymBull is a real community that crowd-sources all of its information. Other fitness sites are carefully controlled and curated content from only a few select contributors, and this severely restricts the themes of the content; users have to go to one site for good meal recipes, another for bodybuilding routines, another for interval training, and so on. However, on GymBull all these stream from various trainers and diverse gyms are in one place. On GymBull, anyone can be a leading fitness influencer by the nature and quality of their content alone.

 

Mike: Who is the end user of the site?

Ethan: As I mentioned above, GymBull.com is designed to connect two groups of end-users: the content creators and the content consumers. It gives gyms and personal trainers around the world a platform to connect with both existing clients as well as a wider audience. These trainers don’t have to hassle with setting up their own corner of the internet and fighting for views; it’s all here from them on GymBull in front of a user base eager for what they have to publish. As for the other half of the users, GymBull is designed to search, save, and share workouts and meals easily and efficiently on a mobile web application that you can take to the gym and beyond. Looking for a 12-week routine that gets you beach-body ready for summer? Follow one on GymBull; How about a single 90-minute routine that will focus on clean & jerk form? It’s here, too; Don’t know exactly what you’re looking for? Hit the “random” button as much as you like until something suits your fancy.

 

Mike: You mentioned that you coded the site yourself. What are the pros and cons of doing this? Were you a coder before you designed the site?

Ethan: I was not a programmer or developer before GymBull.com; I had spent six years as a Surface Warfare Officer in the US Navy. However, I have always been an avid gym-goer and was increasingly frustrated with how fitness information was being produced on the web. By building this application myself, I retained as much creative control as I needed to get it off the ground, but now I’ve opened up the source code on GitHub an consider all open-sourced contributions. In this way the community that uses the platform can build the platform itself , strengthening the engagement needed to make GymBull a lasting project. I do not think I could have achieved what I wanted by hiring an third-party development agency; certainly not for the price that I built it myself, which was absolutely free.

 

Mike: What went into choosing the name GymBull.com? What does it represent to you and to your users?

Ethan: I wanted a name that was unique, concise, and informative. I spent a lot of time thinking of one that also had a relevant, open domain-name and a relatively clear search results. GymBull relates a perfect notion of strength that inspires our users. It’s memorable, pronounceable, and easy to brand with our logo, a bull.

 

Mike: How do you make money on the site? I don’t see any paid subscriptions or advertisements?

Ethan: I don’t make money on GymBull.com; in fact, I’m out a few bucks a month in server hosting fees. Profitability is not something I have seriously considered yet; the first and foremost goal is to create a great place on the web to share fitness information. GymBull will always be centered around that focus, however, the fitness industry generates 80 billion dollars a year in the U.S. and carries a dedicated buy base. If in the future GymBull is stable enough to support sponsored and targeted content, that can be an avenue to consider.

 

Mike: Everyone wants to be fit, yet few of us want to put in the effort. What’s the best piece of advice you have for the general population?

Ethan: My best advise to the general public would be to have realistic goals and then just show up. Few people will ever go from a couch potato to an Olympic athlete, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t lose five to ten pounds. Maybe going from the typical American diet to full paleo-caveman is too daunting, but it’s still beneficial to cut out one thing, like soda, and that’s certainly more doable. The same little steps go for working out, as well; Don’t expect to run a marathon right away, but just putting on gym shorts and walking around the block a few times is a great start and may progress into something more formidable down the line. But you won’t ever get there if you don’t start now.

 

Mike: How have you been promoting the site and building a user base? Has this been a challenge?

Ethan: I would say that this has been the most challenging aspect of this project for me. Much of the modern web follows the 10% rule of content-creation; i.e. out of everyone who visits a site, only 10% will sign up for a dedicated profile, and out of those users, only 10% will publish their own content for others. Those are razor-thin returns on the demographics we need to generate enough content for entice others to join. However, we’ve fought tooth-and-nail for the users that we do have through online and print media, as well as more organic efforts like contributing to fitness publications and any other medium that potential users already consume. It’s a slow process, for sure.

 

Mike: Were you the first to register the domain name? If not, what was the process you went through to purchase it?

Ethan: I was the first to own GymBull.com; this was one of the primary concerns in deciding on a name in the first place. Domain registry, server hosting, and other aspects of of development operations can be a complicated journey, sometimes even more so than developing the source code itself. It’s another aspect that I have not ceded to an outside entity as of yet, because this ownership and control is paramount to me at this stage. Eventually, however, I would like to take a set back from the electron logistics and completely focus on the site itself, But I don’t see that happening for a while.

 

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What is everyone around me doing right now?

dot social

Mack Hasz is a 22 year old raised in Malvern, PA. He’s a recent Virginia Tech graduate who had an idea for an app. As a freelance Software Developer living in Arlington, VA, he decided to put his idea into action and created OutHere. His website is OutHere.social

 

Mike: What inspired you to create the app?

Mack: OutHere is an idea I conceived when I was a sophomore in college spending the summer in Blacksburg, Virginia. Life moves pretty slow in a college town in the summer and I kept thinking “What is everyone around me doing right now?”. I wanted to be able to get a general snapshot of what was happening at this very moment. There are other services out that tried to do that, but none to my liking. The problem is that these services allow any ‘ol picture to be upload, usually resulting in meme like being shared. I wanted to see what was happening in real life. The closest thing to what I wanted was Snapchat city stories, where this app draws heavy inspiration. I enjoyed seeing what the community was doing and it was cool to see my posts be a part of the story. However, it didn’t do enough of what I wanted and I saw many ways to improve upon the idea.

 

Mike: Tell me about the app. What makes it unique?

Mack: OutHere is a public social network. Your typical social app is inherently private, allowing you to connect with family and friends. OutHere, you connect with the world. There is no direct interaction with other users. You don’t send send anyone anything. You simply take a picture or video and put it “OutHere” for the world to see. All media is taken straight from the phone’s camera. Arbitrary uploads are not allowed. This guarantees authenticity. That moment you are viewing wasn’t photoshopped or edited, it was real and it happened. Furthermore all posts are tagged by geolocation with the city they were taken in. This results in you being able to search and discover places that interest you most.

 

Mike: You selected the name outhere.social as opposed to a traditional dot com name. Tell me why you chose a non dot com and specifically the social TLD.

Mack: I’m a big fan of the non dot com domains. They are alluring and for sure stand out more than a normal .com would. I went with .social to be different, hoping to attract more visitors. I specifically chose .social because it fits my app pretty well and it sounds inviting and friendly, like a “come hangout” vibe.

 

Mike: Did you write the app yourself? How hard is it to code something like this?

Mack: Yes, I wrote the front and backend which came out to nearly 25,000 lines of code. The level of difficulty depends on how experienced you are as a programmer. I was lucky to start this project with 4 years of university under my belt. If I were a beginner programmer and learning coding from scratch, this would be quite an ambitious project. I already knew good coding practices so all I had to pick up was the Swift programming language syntax and come to understand the iOS UIKit API. There are a ton of great resources available for free online which I was able to use to my benefit. All in all the app wasn’t too challenging and I reckon most seasoned iOS developers will be able to implement something like this rather quickly.

 

Mike: What is the first thing a person should do when they have an idea for an app?

Mack: It’s important to look at the competition. What’s already out there? Why are they successful? What do you do differently? You can see where your app fits into the ecosystem. Either there is a killer shark waiting to eat you up or you’ve discovered a new species.

 

Mike: Do you anticipate any challenges with a dot social name? Customer confusion, people not knowing what dot social is?

Mack: I am not sure how knowledgable the public is of other domain names. They have only recently come out and I know most of my non-tech friends don’t know what they are. Regardless of wether they know it or not, they do not that text in blue and underlined are links that take them to other websites. As long as that holds true I should be OK. Over time consumers will become more aware and I should observe a long term benefit.

 

Mike: What means can one use to promote a new app and get the word out about it?

Mack: This is a good question and one I’m still trying to figure out! I am finding this the most difficult part of the process. How can I get the app into the hands of as many people as possible for as little as possible? So far I have done very little marketing, just a Facebook post to friends. I’m thinking I’ll have to pay for some sort of advertising, I just need to figure out what is most effective. This being a mobile app, it makes sense to advertise to mobile users. I’m working out all kinks, but I do know that blog entries certainly help!

 

Mike: How important is it to have a website supporting your app?

Mack: It’s crucial to have a website that goes along with your app. It’s what makes your idea shareable. Maybe you start showing up in some search engines, maybe your website gets shared on a forum somewhere, or maybe a coworker sends the link over the work list serve. Before you know it, your app has gone viral. This is not possible if you don’t have a website supporting your app. Another factor to consider is that any people, including myself, don’t want to download another app to add to their growing arsenal of already downloaded apps. It’s important to have a place on the web where they can easily check things out and learn more about the app. If the website is effective, then it should lead to more downloads. I have made my site a preview of what goes on in the app with the idea being that people will see some interesting posts, maybe think of some posts of their own to add, and then hit download.

 

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Is dot TV Normal?

dot tv

Ginny Scales Medeiros was raised in upstate New York and now resides in the San Francisco North Bay. Ginny is an entrepreneur with multiple patents/trademarks. Ginny’s product widely sold in World Class spa resorts and on QVC, made appearances on NBC, CBS, FOX News and written about in many national magazines. This is Ginny’s first novel. “What Is Normal?” made the 2012 top 40 most inspirational list in Gladys Magazine.

 

Mike: Your product is a book, and your domain has a TV tld. Tell me why you chose dot TV?

Ginny: I chose .TV on purpose because it gives a subliminal impression of Entertainment. I am selling my novel from www.whatisnormal.tv

FACT: .TV has nothing to do with television; it is the country code for the Tuvalu Islands, a series of nine slivers of earth in the middle of the South Pacific, with a population of about 10,000.

 

Mike: Tell me about the book, what is it about?

Ginny: Based on a true story about a girl, living in a trailer with her uneducated, teenage parents- in the backwoods who craves More!. Realizing the game her uncle plays with her and her sister is wrong, Sue, has to out smart him,to get out of the game. Moving out on her own at 15,making Headline News with record breaking car sales in a Man’s world, Sue must hang tuff, as the jealous men are sure she is sleeping with her customers in order to make so many sales, the office woman with college degrees, resent giving a high school drop out ,paychecks exceeding their own.. Sues quest to WIN, chasing the worlds idea of normal, she lands the guy all the other woman wants, invents and sells her own product on QVC, still there is a void… Now, with time running out, Sue Johnson has to completely stop drinking, or she will continue to mask her true feelings and repeat the infinite task of trying to “WIN” the worlds idea of success, missing the opportunity for real LOVE.

 

Mike: I see whatisnormal.com is owned by someone else and is for sale. Did you try contacting them for the name to see what the asking price was?

Ginny: I have been contacted many times by the owner of whatisnormal.com offering it to me, I am not interested… because .coms are NORMAL!

 

Mike: Has owning a TV domain caused any confusion as opposed to something like WhatisNormalBook.com?

Ginny: I have not received feedback about any confusion with my .tv versus the norm .com and in my case it is more than a book. It will also open the door for the MOVIE based on the book.

 

Mike: As an author, how important is it to have a domain name and website for your book?

Ginny: As an author it is imperative to have a website for my novel. Many an opportunity has manifested in a rushed setting and all I can get out is whatisnormal.tv. The prospect can read more about the book and contact me with just that little,yet very important information. I do get contacted for radio and TV appearances, as well as making book sales from this website.

 

Mike: I see you are also an entrepreneur and hold several patents. Can you tell me about some of your products? Anything I would be familiar with?

Ginny: I patented, pitched and sold “Flawless sunless tanning” on QVC and in World Class Spa Resorts. I am also in a documentary https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ginny_Scales-Medeiros and a co author with many celebrities of “What is The Electric car?”

*MY Laser focus now is turning the Screen Play for my novel into the MOVIE “WIN” the acronym for “What is Normal?” the project is ready for investors.. (I pitched WIN at the Napa Valley Film Festival a few months ago and it made the finals)

 

Mike: Any advice for aspiring writers out there?

Ginny: Every day plant a seed in the Garden of your dreams….. Quote by Ginny Scales Medeiros

MEANING: Do “something” daily to encourage another to manifest their dream, make that call to get advise on your dream, follow up on a lead, do some research , edify another author, promote a book for someone else.

 

 

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Finished with dot Club

dot club

David Leshaw is the CEO of Finishers Club, a startup for runners. He hails originally from New York, and currently lives with his wife and their toddler in Jerusalem, Israel. He is passionate about trail running, good coffee, and tech startups. He one time got a double-bingo in Scrabble.

 

Mike: David, what exactly is finishers.club and how does it work?

David: Finishers Club is a free online platform for runners to log their race finish times and track their gear — think of it as a mix between a virtual marathon trophy case and locker for your running gear. It’s a fantastic way for runners of all distances to show off their running achievements with a dedicated running profile page, and to also let other runners know what kind of gear they use, and how they like it. We also have a weekly newsletter, as well as an iMessage sticker pack.

 

Mike: You chose dot club for your domain. Tell me what went into your domain choice.

David: Dot-club was a natural choice for us. We had originally chosen the name “Finishers Club” as a way to convey the exclusivity and sense of community engendered by crossing a finish line — no matter the distance. Whether you’ve hustled across a 5K finish line or dragged yourself through the last minutes of an ultra-marathon, you’ve become a member of a club — people who set a goal, who trained, and who followed through. We wanted to capture that spirit of achievement and camaraderie through our name, and “Club” seemed the natural way to do that. At the time, FinishersClub.com was taken, but .club fit better with our mission, regardless.

 

 

Mike: What benefits have you seen from going with dot club as your tld?

David: The medium is the message here, and our choice of .club as our TLD makes it clear that we are committed to conveying that sense of exclusivity and achievement produced by crossing a finish line. I also believe that, in general, shorter names are better, and since it takes fewer breaths to say – or keyboard strokes to type – “finishers.club,” the name’s relative brevity works to our advantage. Say it out loud: “finishers-dot-club.” It’s simple, almost impossible to misspell, and the “clubbiness” of the TLD provokes curiosity in people who haven’t yet signed up.

 

Mike: How long have you been in business and how many users do you currently have?

David: We’ve been in business just about one year, and have several thousand users across the globe. Our member base ranges from busy parents and college students who run 5Ks on the weekends through sponsored ultra-marathon runners who tackle 100-mile races in a stretch, and everyone in between.

 

Mike: How does a site like finishers.club generate revenue?

David: We’ve just launched our tee shirt store, where race finishers can customize a performance race tee that features a bib imprinted with their name, their favorite race, and their finish time at that race. We also sell various other fun tee shirts and trail running caps. We currently use affiliate links on our site and in some of our content, and are exploring sponsored content, as well as events and premium features that would provide additional revenue down the line.

 

Mike: I see FinishersClub.com is available for sale. Is that something you would consider to supplement your domain. Why or why not?

David: At this juncture, our focus is on using our resources to make something insanely great for our users. We rank reasonably well when it comes to SEO, and so, at this point, we are just focused on asking ourselves “How can we make finishers.club even better for runners around the globe?”

 

Mike: Tell me about running an online business. Is it a lot of work? What have been the biggest challenges?

David: The biggest challenge in running an online business is finding a way to keep delighting users in new and surprising ways — based both on the things that users actually request, and the features we sense they would want based on how they use our site. I mean that seriously.

For instance, we noticed that users were inputting in a lot of detail about the kind of gear they were running in. Runners were spending time keying in, for example, “New Balance Vazee Pace v2.” We wanted to find a way to make that and easier to do and more visual. So we crafted an auto-complete function that necessitated re-writing our database and re-doing certain visual elements on the site. But it will now auto-complete the name of your gear as you type, and also produce the relevant image, as well as the ability to rate that given gear item. We think – and users tell us – that it’s a fantastic addition to their running lives.

But ultimately, our whole team – from our CFO to our developers to our marketing team – is comprised of runners, and so delighting athletes is part of our organizational DNA. We are lucky to be able to build the best running platform of its kind for an incredibly passionate group of people.

 

 

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