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Business Week On Desktop Search Economics 106

Posted by timothy
from the you-mean-they-want-money-too dept.
prostoalex writes "Business Week responds to the recent announcement by Yahoo! to join the ever-competitive desktop search field and asks whether any money will be made in giving away free utilities for desktop search. Apparently, beyond the intangible benefit of brand loyalty (which on the Internet probably doesn't amount to a whole lot), the only way to make money off the desktop search engines, as Business Week sees it, is to show related ads, which is bound to bring up some privacy issues."
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Business Week On Desktop Search Economics

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  • Personal Search Tool (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fembots (753724) on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @04:35PM (#11339574) Homepage
    What we need soon (if not now) is a personal search tool (PST) which searches/records all RFID-paired (paired for security) items in your surrounding, so that you can search anything (eg remote control, old text book sealed in one of the boxes) you have ever owned/paired.

    Every time you bought a new item (anything RFID-ed), you pair it with this PST, which you wear like a watch, and its location is then recorded on a 3D grid of your designated surrounding (eg house mode, car mode). And this PST will constantly monitor/update its search index.

    I think search is almost indispensable now, I almost always open up google.com when I tried to find my car key, and I feel as bad as those who wanted to carjack vehicles after playing too much GTA. I must be dreaming.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @04:35PM (#11339576)
    They've missed the point. Google/Yahoo/whoever produce a good desktop search that you want to install. You install it. Then, when you need the search the web, what's the first place you're going to search with? Well, probably the one that's already running on your desktop. It's there and easy to access. That's how they make the money. You use their search engine and see their ads. No, you're not forced to use them, but most people will because it's what they want or they're lazy.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      This is exactly right. Not every individual commercial product a company offers has to have a standalone revenue model. These desktop search products are obviously part of a larger mission to get you to use Google's or Yahoo!'s or MSN's search boxes to search your personal stuff and therefore the web as well, and the web search economic model of contextual ads is both well understood and accepted. Do any slashdotters actually work for real companies? So far, Google, the darling of the slashdot crowd, is the
    • I can understand Google and Yahoo doing things the way they are, but once again, it seems MS is doing things backwards.

      Its the "let's make the hard drive as easy to navigate as the web by using the same tools" that now leads to "let's make the hard drive as easy to search as the web using the same tools".

      Both approaches fail in that they don't seem to understand doing these things for your hard drive should be easier than doing it on the web.

      At least Apple seems to "get it" even if they don't always get
    • But useability is another matter entierly. I seriously doubt that Yahoo or MSN will come up with a fast, "user-friendly" searh tool. If theres advertisments, they had better be small, non-disruptive in nature, or it will piss everyone off and have a negative impact on society's productiveness. There already is indexed searching stuff in Windows. Its not great, but it has the right idea. It runs a service in the background and it looks/feels like a normal search tool. Except, that animated dog should be
  • by purduephotog (218304) <hirschNO@SPAMinorbit.com> on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @04:35PM (#11339577) Homepage Journal
    Seriously it's money that drives a product therefore if there is no cash incentive, the product will fail.

    Brand loyalty (in my segment) will default to 'benevolent' google.

    Cash isn't king to everyone, but programmers do have to eat (And corporations do have to make a profit else they get hammered off the street).
  • by MacBrave (247640) on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @04:36PM (#11339597) Journal
    If the only reason companies like Yahoo!, Google, MS, etc. are entering the desktop search arena is in order to generate ad revenue, you can be sure I will never install one.

    Ads related to my web searches? Ok. Ads based on what files are on my PC? No thanks, too big of a privacy concern for me.......

    • If the only reason companies like Yahoo!, Google, MS, etc. are entering the desktop search arena is in order to generate...revenue

      Why else would a publicly traded corporation release a product?
    • I think the whole reason brand-name PCs have become so cheap is because each PC has become a revenue stream for the OEM. I wrote [brew-masters.com] about it in one my journals...
    • If the only reason companies like Yahoo!, Google, MS, etc. are entering the desktop search arena is in order to generate ad revenue...

      Wake Up! What business do you think Yahoo and Google are in? How do you think they make money? Does just having a bunch of people use your free search engine/instant messenger/web-mail/whatever just magically generate revenue? No, these comapnies are in the Advertising Business. They sell advertising space. Everything else is just a way to get you to watch (and hopefully c

  • by nightsweat (604367) on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @04:38PM (#11339617)
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    Use this online coupon for $5 a one-hour stay at the NoSleep No-Tell Motel on Route 9 near the Feed Store. Choose from our variety of rooms including our "honeymoon suite" with mirrored ceilings, floors, walls, you name it. Or perhaps you'd like the "hygenic room" where everything is made of plastic and can be quickly sprayed down and sanitized both before and after your stay.

    Redeem this coupon before January 30 or you might just suffer an unfortunate mass mailing virus infestation. What was your spouse's e-mail address again...?
  • There's money there? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by MLopat (848735)
    Since when has not making any money off of an idea ever stopped a .com. As we all saw during the .com explosion, most of these companies didn't have a business plan. So its no surprise the desktop version of the .com search engine has no way of making money -- yet.
  • Whenever I see another suggestion for a new place to shove in ads, I cringe. Ads have become one of the top reasons for me to stop using, ignore or actively disparage products. I even stopped reading the article half-way through because of the disgusting amount of bright, flashy ads in the margins.

    It seems to me that Google is right, if want to keep a happy customer, stop advertising at every possibility!

    Ok, that's enough ranting now.
  • Views vs. Clicks (Score:4, Interesting)

    by clinko (232501) on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @04:39PM (#11339638) Homepage Journal
    Lets see their marketing plan:

    So they make something so that people can get things done _faster_.

    Then they put advertisements in.

    Then hope they'll forget they were trying to get things done and start clicking on those ads?

    Makes no sense.

    That's like hoping someone will leave during a tv show to get the product they see during a commercial.

    The only money they'll make from advertising is views, not clicks. And we know this doesn't work.
    • I still don't even understand these desktop search tools. As a consumer, why use them? Don't I already have a search function in my OS? Speaking of which, why is MS releasing a desktop search tool? It's like, "We admit that the search capabilities included with the OS suck, so we put our MSN people on it"??

      So I don't understand why the companies would particularly want to create these tools unless they were going to be adware. But then that brings me back to the question of, why would consumers want t

  • Solved. (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    2. ???? = show ads
  • I'm not trying to be a socialist with this thought, but most companies, particularly public ones who answer to their shareholders, are concerned with making a profit.

    The economics of some of these tools are going to require companies to hijack our desktop with pop-up ads or 'relevant' ads.

    However, the Open Source Software community could provide tools to do this without the profit motive.

    Its kinda like the ole saying, 'some things only the government can/wants to do'; well some things only the OSS commu
    • However, the Open Source Software community could provide tools to do this without the profit motive.

      And who provides the cash to take care of the overhead? Sure, if I had someone paying for my distribution, maintenance and support costs I could release successful software too. In the end someone has to foot the bill. And if the OSS community is so gung-ho to this concept there is nothing blocking their path.

      BTW: Joe Sixpack still isn't going to give a rats ass about open source reguardless. You give him
      • And besides gaining more support for open source what other reason would someone else bother with such a project? There certainly won't be a paycheck involved if you're not worry about profit. Good intentions are fine but it doesn't pay the bills.

        Gross generalisation. Open source often pays the bills. When one developer can develop a software used by millions of people the marginal cost per person is in the noise. Broken per-copy IP licensing models break this simple truth. With 6,400,000,000+ [census.gov] people in

        • Fact is, your rant about money being the only motivator is pathetic and a sad reflection on your tunnel-vision education.

          Fact is, you haven't answered my question... Who's going to pay the bills? This isn't about producing an app, it's about making an app work on a large scale with support, distribution and future developement. Your rant is the sad reflection of a lack of contemplation on the subject. I'm sure you know nothing about my education either.
          • Who says working on an app like this needs to pay the bills? How does someone with astronomy as an hobby pay the bills? How does someone who likes to paint pay the bills? You know, it doesn't all have to be about money? If could be about a desire to create better software, a desire to get work experience, a desire to help your fellow man, a desire to see an end result to a creative effort, etc.

            If OSS development results in a team of people, the division of labor can be spread out so that you dont need to s
          • Who's going to pay the bills?

            Same as always - the customers. If they want something not already available, they pay for it. They will be paying a lot less than the $35,000,000,000+ per year that M$ alone is currently raking in. Lucky customers, it's about time it became a commodity market.

            This isn't about producing an app, it's about making an app work on a large scale with support, distribution and future developement. Your rant is the sad reflection of a lack of contemplation on the subject.

            Yep,

            • They will be paying a lot less than the $35,000,000,000+ per year that M$ alone is currently raking in. Lucky customers, it's about time it became a commodity market.

              Uh, this isn't about Microsoft. It's about a limited product that will be offered for free by others. You're trying to run competition against what will likely be nothing more than a loss leader for Google. Please. Let's stick the to REAL subject. This isn't anti-open source, this is about a single product that will probably cost to those pro
    • Shameless plug: Nariva http://nariva.sf.net/ [sf.net] is a java based OSS desktop search tool I'm working on. Uses mostly Apache software but is still in beta. If anyone in the OSS community is interested in helping me out, feel free.
  • by Undefined Tag (750722) on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @04:42PM (#11339669) Homepage

    It's not a question of money, but of presence. Once you have everyone using your software, you can look at sneaking in profit centers.

    Google's a great example. They didn't start with AdSense - they added it once they were king.

    Once your app is everywhere, you have all sorts of options. For example, if you don't want to sell ads, write another (commercial) program which expands the functionality of the original.

    It's not always about the quick buck. Sometimes, it's about putting yourself in the proper position.

    • And nobody knows this better than Microsoft.

      How much did IE develpment cost with no real chance of turning a profit?

      How about the Xbox?

      Its all jockeying for the position at the top of the hill. Then you make the money.
  • Um... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by NoMoreNicksLeft (516230) <john.oyler@c[ ]ast.net ['omc' in gap]> on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @04:42PM (#11339673) Journal
    How is this even a viable industry, niche market, killer app, or whatever the hell it is that they seem to think it is.

    Maybe they need to teach people how to use a computer... because I can't see this catering to anyone but the "I can't find my files even though Windows XP Retard Edition saves it to My\ Documents by default" crowd.

    Can't someone just port grep -r to win32, maybe put a fancy GUI around it? Or is it suddenly innovation to reinvent simple tools unix already invented 30 years ago?
    • First of all, grep has been available on windows for a very long time. However, what does grep have to do with any of these search engines?

      Will grep find an instance of a word in a pdf document buried in gigabytes of data? What about a plain text document, who will find it faster, grep or GDS?

      You do know these things are indexing your docs right?

      Maybe you should invent a dumb search engine that gets rid of all that wasteful indexing nonsense does the following:

      NoMoreNicksLeft's search engine (v 1.0)

      1)
      • Correct me if I'm wrong, but the article refers to "Desktop Search", a term that in this context means something more along the lines of "searching through all your files on your own computer".

        Dumbass.

        Grep is pretty lean, doesn't have to fuck with the win32 API, and does indeed work on strings hidden in any file. I think it would easily give GDS a run for its money, considering that anyone who deserves to be using a modern computer, has at least the base skills needed to actually organize their damn files
        • You are definately not a programmer. Sure, all my source is organized but you still need to search to find the files you are interested in based on content. GDS indexes all my java files and returns results almost instantaneously. I do use grep in a unix environment and have a windows port , but find GDS much more efficient.
        • Please, wake up and consume some caffeine products. Please.

          grep sucks. grep is woefully inadequate when you have a lot of data. When you don't know where things are or have a lot of data, grep fails in usability. Grep works fine if you assume small datasets and your time is meaningless.

          That's why glimpse exist. glimpse, unlike grep, indexes data first, then searches the index. The result is significantly faster results on the same amount data.

          Non-OS desktop searches will definitely suck donkey nuts. Sinc
        • An example of GDS/copernic that beat grep -r hands down:

          A coworker of mine sent me an email about a URL about 1 year ago (now in my archived folders) that I need to use today to check for XML validities based on a specific DTD for my work.

          Please tell me how you are going to search my Outlook archived folders (which is about 8GBs, when you add all of 'em together) using grep -r.

          Using copernic, I can search either by author, or a date, or any part of the word that i could think of. After typing each letter
        • So you've had a computer since 1994. Wow!

          As long as we're pulling our history, my first one was an Apple //c in 1984. What does that have to do with anything?

          The article is talking about "desktop search", but if you had bothered to read it or understand it, you will see that these are indexed services that search quickly and on a greater variety than something like grep!

          Grep is for plain text documents, it's not going to work on PDF files, office documents, and all the other weird formats that exist on a
          • Ok so its great. Fuck sliced bread. Where's the linux version? Oh, that's right. You just gave microsoft another way to hold you hostage. Have fun playing with VC++.NET or whatever the hell they call it.
            • ... we're talking about (indexed search vs linear search) you're going to put the MS card?

              If you have any clue, you can find an indexed search service for linux, but since I don't think you understand this concept yet let me help you out.

              http://freshmeat.net/projects/glimpse/

              What does VC++ or .NET have to do with usage of the tools being talked about in the article?
              • You're such the wizardly coder. If you're using GDS to search through your source code files, then just what are you using?

                Besides, wasn't my original post about "how was this some killer app" ? Great, linux has a version. And I doubt it will popup ads when I use it. Tell me, how can GDS be so cool, so special? I also use "less" and awful lot. Will Yahoo, Microsoft and Apple be competing next year over a utility that lets you scroll through long documents?
                • > You're such the wizardly coder. If you're using GDS to search through your source code files, then just what are you using?

                  What do you mean what am I using? I'm using all kinds of tools to edit code, from vi to clunky heavy weight IDEs. I don't understand the question.

                  > Besides, wasn't my original post about "how was this some killer app" ?

                  I don't know if this is a killer app, but this is a great utility and it's much better than what you suggested; grep. Grep is great for quick searches in your
      • Will grep find an instance of a word in a pdf document buried in gigabytes of data?

        Yes, unless it's in any encoding other than the one you are typing in. I also highly recommend using the -l option, unless you like reading a 50,000 character line from a binary. Grep is great, but it has its limits (including an O(n) search).
    • Re:Um... (Score:3, Insightful)

      My problem is my half-photographic memory. I remember seeing a vague reference to whatever I'm looking for, but I don't remember where I saw it. Or I remember writing something relating to what I'm thinking about, but I don't remember when or why I did so. Google Desktop will find this for me, quickly.

      The other thing I use GDS for is chat logs: if I remember reading someone say something, I can look for it much faster with GDS than with my megabytes of saved conversations. And if AIM crashes for whatever r
  • Anyone that actually needs a desktop search has entirely too much stuff on their computer, or just can't organize.

    I guess if one wanted to search through their masses of pr0n or pirated movies it would be useful, but for the average computer user, it shouldn't be necessary. Most people will probably get it because it's the "new item on the market", and they think just because it's new, it must be better.
    • Most desktop searches can look inside of Word documents and read metadata from images. This means that they can find images from a date (for example) even though the file names don't always make sense (i.e.: DSC00082.jpg) or can find all documents on your hard drive having to do with a general topic, no matter where they're stored (for example, I sort in folders by year, but if I have stuff from two different years pertaining to the same thing, a search program can find it). This is a double-eged sword, h
    • That's completely incorrect. I have over 140MB of e-mails at work. I have to save them (record retention at an investment firm). Google desktop can tell me in less than a second who I sent a particular PDF to 4 years ago. I can find every reference to a server in all documents and e-mails to track its history.

      Just because you don't have enough stuff to search through doesn't mean others can't organize. You can create as many folders as you want, it's still a ton of crap to look through.
  • by sacrilicious (316896) on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @04:43PM (#11339697) Homepage
    beyond the intangible benefit of brand loyalty...

    When used in this context, "intangible" doesn't mean "non-existent"... it means "hard to quantify". The difficulty of quantifying the benefit of a proposal should is not per se an argument against enacting the proposal.

    For example, almost any investment in infrastructure has "intangible" benefits. When a government considers whether to build new roads to stimulate economic development of an area, it is very hard to pin down precisely what benefits will be derived in terms of commerce, consumption, quality of life, opportunity cost, etc... yet these kinds of decisions are made all the time, and for good reason: a persistent lack of infrastructural investment correlates strongly with diminished outcomes over the long term.

  • It should bring up some security issues too.. If i trusted Microsoft to really handle security I would probably want to use their tool just for that reason. I mean I don't want something able to a) look at all my files and b) then communicate to the open net...

    If any vendor does that, even MS, I wouldn't really want to use tool. Of course that will not stop Mom and Pop Netizen and all their scriptkids from using them...

  • by SuperKendall (25149) * on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @04:48PM (#11339745)
    Seems to me more like an effort to keep people using Google for web searches by making sure they turn to Goggle for local searches too, instead of the all-in-one MS tool that is going to be around eventually.

    Basically, a pre-emptive strike to keep from loosing customers to Microsoft OS integration.
    • Basically, a pre-emptive strike to keep from loosing customers to Microsoft OS integration.

      Assuming, of course, that microsoft would have even thought of implementing a good desktop search system if Google had not it first.

      MS has had a crude one for years, I remember my Win98 machine periodically going into a flury of disk activity, and consquently killing interactive response time, every couple of hours just to rebuild (from scratch) the full keyword index of MS word and other "Text" documents.

      It took
      • Better search is supposed to be a big deal I think in Longhorn, and that is really the thing that Google is trying to prevent the eventual adoption of at the cost of thier own search traffic.
        • You're right - now I remember all the hype about winfs, I had forgotten it since most of the hyped stuff had been "pushed back" for the release after longhorn...
          • WinFS has actually been pushed back as well, but I think they are still embedding some searching technologies. They have been trying to do that for a while though which is probably what got google worried.

            I wonder what IS in Longhorn?
  • "...beyond the intangible benefit of brand loyalty (which on the Internet probably doesn't amount to a whole lot)..."

    Brand loyalty doesn't amount to much on the Internet? I think that notion is very wrong. I believe that the more products/services one uses from a company - the more likely the avg person will stick with them. When a consumer trusts in a company, their loyalty usually follows. Sure, it isn't true for everyone, but trust/loyalty of the brand name is surely a very significant factor in any
    • I think it's even more important on the Internet. Brand loyalty on the internet is a critical factor for an internet company. It gets loyal users/customers to pass around your link. And people can be very fickle. With so many options it's easy to jump to something else and never return. There are thousands of search engines, but most people have only heard of Google, Yahoo, and (unfortunately) MSN and stick with them. Look at how quickly Google rose immediately after their fellow college students beca
  • Making money from desktop search may not be the issue.

    If Microsoft was to create the only desktop search, Microsoft could leverage this to remove the need for Web-based search engines.

    Microsoft wants a piece of everybody's pie. Well, the successful person's pie.

    Who's to say that another Netscape-type incident couldn't occur within the search engine market?
    • I think that may be the point. Netscape's only product (for a long time) was the browser. So when that was overtaken it was all downhill even though they were very well known. These desktop search providers have other primary offerings. They just want to get their foot in the door so if they succeed there's brand recognition and profit there or elsewhere. If they fail because of another Netscape-like incedent it doesn't matter. Their business runs on other products. They can only gain, even if they l
  • "Universal Search" sounds to me like the next step in the evolution towards 'epic.' A peer to peer WWW in which we all contribute to and help index. Desktop search is the first step. see: http://www.robinsloan.com/epic/
    All will act as a webserver for everyone else. Don't think in terms of 'search' think in terms of 'index.'

  • Just that, the boy with the most toys wins since is the one with the most friends interested in the toys, just ask erp, hm, yahoo! heh
  • A desktop search engine will replace the file browser. This will give the company that gets the marketshare a platform that all users use whenever they interact with files.
    On top of that platform you can now do anything - make your own API, distributed it with an integrated web browser, or movie-viewer, and in general get all the nice benefits that microsoft gets from having a virtual OS monopoly.
    It is the whole reason why the browser war started, now on the desktop.
    There is a sequence of events from where
  • Not to sound to much like a commercial (and hasn't there been enough apple koolaid here recently) but Spotlight [apple.com] in the next release of OS X is right along these same lines. Of course, like all of its software offerings, Apple is using the applications to sell the hardware. That's how they monetize it. Hard to see how Google et al will be able to do the same.

    From the source above:

    Spotlight blazes through all of your files and applications and displays the results literally as fast as you can type in searc

    • I don't see any reason this opens up any security issues not already present. How does being able to quickly find your stuff make you less secure than when you were fumbling around your oh so clever directory structure or attempting to combine grep and find?
      • Steve Jobs keeps talking about how Spotlight is integrated into the core of the OS and it will have some sort of public API. This is the type of stuff that keeps getting Microsoft in trouble, i.e. moving what should properly be userland stuff into the kernel. Hopefully, Applet will have more success. And maybe there is nothing to worry about. But until the product ships, it will be hard to tell.
  • I am wondering if any of these desktop search utilities upload stats to their servers. Since I don't run Windows, I can't download and try these out; but it would be interesting to go over their EULAs with a fine-toothed comb and see what can/cannot be done by these utilities.
  • BusinessWeek is right - it's a mugs game giving away free software to people who never would have paid for it anyway.

    But there is money to be made in desktop search, and we [isys-search.com] and some of our competitors have been doing so for years. The trick is to sell a premium quality product to people who have sufficient need that they're happy to pay a reasonable price for it. Not dumbed-down, feature crippled search software, but a fully-featured, professional, top-shelf product. It's worth paying for, and you know wha

  • by crazyphilman (609923) on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @07:10PM (#11341676) Journal
    Ok, show of hands. How many of you running Linux or FreeBSD does NOT have htdig and locate (or FreeBSD variants) already installed? Hmm... Nobody.

    Ok, Mac guys. How many, show of hands, don't be shy... How many of you don't use Finder to find things? Nobody. Ok...

    Windows guys! Ok, I KNOW you'll be interested. Show of hands, who here doesn't use or know about "find files"? Nobody? Come on, SOMEONE in here must need a new search tool. Anybody? Come on, you're killing me here.

    Ok, tough audience. I can roll with that.

    Alright, let's pretend for a minute that you DIDN'T have a directory/file search tool installed on your computer. That's DID NOT. OK? Now, show of hands. Who here is willing to install my new tool FindYourCrap, for the low low low price of 29.95, with the understanding that I'll have a few ads running from time to time and you have no expectation of privacy, etc, etc, it's all in the EULA.

    What? Nobody? Come ON people! I gave you bagels. Doesn't ANYBODY want some of this?

    Fine. FINE! You people are pains in the... Ok, look, I'll tell you what, I've got a line on these condos in Florida...

  • I'm farely well organized and I don't use my desktop search service (shameless plug http://nariva.sf.net/ [sf.net]) much for finding things that I know are there. One of the real benefits is finding things that are related to things that are there. All Desktop search is is a data mining application for end users. Money probably wouldn't be made from ad revenue but from branding, customization and corporate search services. Search is the key to any good content management system and that is the future of the agile bu
  • From the Terms and conditions:

    Non-commercial Use Only
    Google Desktop Search is made available to you for your non-commercial use only. If you want to make commercial use of Google Desktop Search, including but not limited to selling or distributing Google Desktop Search for payment, you must enter into an agreement with Google or obtain Google's written permission in advance.

    Therefore, using it in a commercial sense, ie - at you place of work will probably require giving google some money
  • Free desktop search opens up a lot of possible applications using it to carry part of the load. I would bet these companies have more than a few such in mind. Also, brand/stack loyalty is nothing to sneeze at. Personally I think the better question is whether these desktop search offerings have APIs accessible to third party vendors. Would be start-ups want to know!
  • Everyone seems to be fixated on consumer privacy concerns instead of pointing out that the financial success of desktop search has absolutely nothing to do with advertising and ecommerce. What if every company had an internal search engine and the compatible desktop search engine on every desktop in the company? The mind reels at how easy it would be to find information anywhere in the company (including your personal web history or your manager's spreadsheet containing everyone's salary information).

    Th

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