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Open Source After 12 Years 174

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the seems-like-only-yesterday dept.
GMGruman writes "12 years ago, seven people in a room coined the term "open source" and launched what initially seemed like a quixotic exercise. Today, open source is mainstream, with original believers such as Red Hat worth billions and superpowers such as Oracle buying in. But open source has changed along the way, says InfoWorld's Peter Wayner, and may change more in coming years."
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Open Source After 12 Years

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  • 12 years? (Score:2, Informative)

    by multimediavt (965608)
    Try more than 15 years since the movement began. When the history ain't right I don't bother to RTFA.
    • Re:12 years? (Score:5, Informative)

      by RedK (112790) on Tuesday December 28, 2010 @12:09PM (#34687194)
      The Open Source Initiative, founded by Bruce Perens and Eric S. Raymond was founded in 1998, 12 years ago as of 2010. This is what the article refers to.
      • by spun (1352) <loverevolutionary@@@yahoo...com> on Tuesday December 28, 2010 @12:13PM (#34687270) Journal

        So what the hell was I using in 1996? Before Bruce and Eric started "promoting" themse... I mean, open source, other people like Richard Stallman and Linus Torvalds were actually writing it.

        • by Mongoose Disciple (722373) on Tuesday December 28, 2010 @12:17PM (#34687330)

          First paragraph of TFA:

          It is now just over 12 years since seven people sat down in a conference room in Silicon Valley to fix what they saw as the marketing problem with the words "free software." Most people thought that the word "free" meant only that no one had to pay. It seemed they didn't have an attention span long enough to try to grok what Richard Stallman was saying when he kept repeating, "'free,' as in speech."

          So basically, this story is more about a revolution in branding than a revolution in software.

          • And if the prior 12 years should teach you anything, it's that branding and marketing is what sets nearly all widely-used software apart from the rest.

            Maybe the question should be, with 12 years of open source branding, and with well-marketed products like Ubuntu, why have we not advanced further?
            • by Troed (102527)

              Open Source has a huge market share - where it counts: Mobile Internet Devices (some still call them smartphones).

            • Maybe the question should be, with 12 years of open source branding, and with well-marketed products like Ubuntu, why have we not advanced further?

              Because unlike RMS, most people who are using FOSS really do care more about free-as-in-beer. Also, most people can understand that while FOSS has its success stories, there is little evidence that it inherently produces better quality products. FOSS has been at its most successful, in terms of size of user base, when providing "good enough" and free-of-charge products. It has also found success in server rooms and software houses, where the technically knowledgeable people using it value the typical streng

              • by Teancum (67324)

                Based upon my own experience and the environments that I have worked in, I generally find most FOSS software to be pretty good and generally good enough to get the job done, but often is lacking against the top software in its category.

                After years of being tethered to MS-Windows, I finally made the leap a while ago to Ubuntu Linux. My experience is that it is about as stable as Windows '98 was for me all those years ago, and frankly that is pretty impressive for what is mostly an all-volunteer project. It

                • by dbIII (701233)
                  The gimp problem has been that when they try to get graphic designers involved they've generally said things like "I'm not touching it until it is exactly like photoshop right down to the menu layout". There are better things to do than reverse engineer photoshop so we have a program that works for its original aims - simple graphics and graphics for web pages.
            • Maybe the question should be, with 12 years of open source branding, and with well-marketed products like Ubuntu, why have we not advanced further?

              Yes, I think that's the question, and it needs attention. Open source is great - so why isn't it advancing faster? Netbooks were a great opportunity, as well as low-cost boxes with Linux preinstalled to reduce costs, to reach Joe User.

              1) I remember lots of people asking me to isntall XP on their preinstalled Linux box. (It broke my heart - but it was my job.) These people knew they wanted windows - and they didn't even know what an OS was! Why? I asked them. "I tried to install X program, and I coul

          • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Tuesday December 28, 2010 @01:23PM (#34688312) Homepage Journal

            TFA does not support the summary. The submitter does not understand the history involved [hyperlogos.org]. Christine Peterson is one of at least three people including Bruce Perens who claim to have invented the term "Open Source", in spite of the simple fact that the term appears in the media and in press releases prior to that date. They did not invent the term; they co-opted it. TFA does not state that the term was "coined" at this meeting, although it does strongly imply it. This would be a false and revisionist view of history, but you can't saddle TFA's author with explicitly expressing it, only with failing to disambiguate. This may have been a deliberate choice on their part, since the actual origins of the term are themselves ambiguous.

            Further, TFA makes no predictions, and thus can be roundfiled after being stamped "I've had all these thoughts before and they weren't particularly insightful."

            GMGruman is either an ignoramus who speaks without knowing, or a follower of the OSI.

          • by spun (1352)

            It is not even a revolution in branding. The whole free software/open source debate is only an issue in the heads of certain uber-nerds who should really be doing something more constructive with their time. Nobody else cares what we call it.

          • by dougmc (70836)

            So basically, this story is more about a revolution in branding than a revolution in software.

            Likely, though really, the term "open source" itself, used as we use it today, is older than that too. For example, this Usenet post [google.com] is from 1996.

            CALDERA® ANNOUNCES OPEN-SOURCE CODE
            MODEL FOR DOS

            DR DOS® + the Internet = Caldera OpenDOS

            PROVO, Utah Sept. 10, 1996 Caldera® Inc. today
            announced that it will openly distribute the so

            • by drinkypoo (153816)

              Yep, that's the oldest reference in "print" that I could find, too. It's too bad that so many of the web content of the time has vanished.

        • by amorsen (7485) <benny+slashdot@amorsen.dk> on Tuesday December 28, 2010 @12:18PM (#34687340)

          Free Software.

        • by AndGodSed (968378)

          I think there is a distinction between "open source" as a descriptive of the kind of software you are using, and "open source" as a descriptive of what group or movement the software belongs to.

          Open source as a movement might have been named 12ish years ago, but open source software is much older than that.

          Wasn't BSD open source way back? (sorry if I remember incorrectly)

          • You're correct in just about everything you're saying :) The article is about the branding change that was calling "Free Software" by a different name. Software released under licenses compatible with the Open Source definition, though, is much older.

            If you're ever looking for further information on this stuff, the book "Free as in Freedom" has a little on the further history of Free Software from the RMS viewpoint.

          • Open source as a movement might have been named 12ish years ago, but open source software is much older than that.

            As much as I want to disprove this, I can't (admittedly, I'm not trying very hard, I'm at work...) I found some uses of 'open' in proximity to 'source' but not the specific popular combination of "open source," prior to 1998. E.g., "the X Window System was conceived from the start as an open system. This means that the developers maintained independence from any manufacturer-specific policy and also that the complete source code is available for free." Linux, Unleashing the Workstation in your PC (1997), p1

        • You were using free software. According to Richard Stallman, the difference is philosophical, although in practice they achieve the same results: the production of more free software.

        • by melikamp (631205)
          None of this redundancy/infighting would probably happen if English just had two nice different words meaning "costless" and "not enslaved", like "gratis" and "libre" (Sp.) or "besplatnoe" and "svobodnoe" (Rus.). Sometimes I think that going with "free" was a misstep on Stallman's part, but at the same time, I cannot think of a good alternative.
          • Sometimes I think that going with "free" was a misstep on Stallman's part, but at the same time, I cannot think of a good alternative.

            Freedom-ware?
            Unrestricted Software?
            Software of Liberty?
            Free-range Software?
            User-Empowering Software?
            Non Captive Software?

            IMO, the biggest problem is that "closed software" doesn't sound as bad as it should...

            Untrustable Software
            Black-Box Software
            Shackle-Ware
            Hood-Locked Software (a car reference).
            System Enslaving Software
            Freedom-Hating Software

          • >>>English just had two nice different words meaning "costless" and "not enslaved"

            It does. Free and liberty. I would have called "free software" as "liberated software" to avoid confusion.

            • by melikamp (631205)
              Yeah, but "liberty" is a noun and "liberated" connotes that it was enslaved at some point and later liberated, which would be misleading most of the time.
        • by Abcd1234 (188840)

          So what the hell was I using in 1996?

          Free Software.

          Yes, Free Software != Open Source.

          What, have you been living under a rock for the past 14 years? How you miss the whole OSS/FOSS/FLOSS bullshit over the last decade and a half, exactly?

        • by jackspenn (682188)
          You were using "free software". You're welcome.
          • by spun (1352)

            I recall seeing the term "open source" around long before Eric and Bruce tried to hijack the movement from Stallman.

        • Stallman writes and promotes "free software", not "open source". He considers the distinction very important. Calling what he does "open source" is probably as big an offense in his eyes as saying "Linux" instead of "GNU/Linux".

      • The Open Source Initiative, founded by Bruce Perens and Eric S. Raymond was founded in 1998, 12 years ago as of 2010. This is what the article refers to.

        They may have coined the term, registered the domain, and made it all official...

        But I was using open source software before 1998. And referring to it as "open source", too.

        • by guruevi (827432)

          This is InfoWorld, the people that keep sending you 'free' magazines because you work in the IT business. They are written by idiots who get the specs for their stories from whoever paid for the advertisement. Off course open source is older than 12 years or even the OSI organization. Back in the 70's and 80's everything that was not AT&T's Unix was open source.

    • Re:12 years? (Score:4, Informative)

      by cstacy (534252) on Tuesday December 28, 2010 @12:09PM (#34687202)

      I've been hacking since 1974, and the concept and practice of open source was not new when I started. (I don't think we had a name for it, way back then. But I also think the tag "open source" is somewhat older than 15 years.)

      • by panda (10044)

        In my day, we just called it "software."

      • by Alrescha (50745)

        "I've been hacking since 1974, and the concept and practice of open source was not new when I started."

        This.

        SHARE (www.share.org) was formed in 1955. It's goals were to share information among IT professionals. At least one of the subgroups, VMSHARE, had been sharing code (on tape) since 1973.

        A.

    • Re:12 years? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Oriumpor (446718) on Tuesday December 28, 2010 @12:10PM (#34687224) Homepage Journal

      Halloween was 1994 wasn't it? I mean, even if you only take into account attempts to monetize Linux the OSS movement started to become popularized at least 16 years ago. RMS wrote the Gnu manifesto 25 years ago, one could argue it all started then....

      • by mrjatsun (543322)

        > RMS wrote the Gnu manifesto 25 years ago, one could argue it all started then

        no. before GNU, there was "open source" code ;-) From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bsd [wikipedia.org]
              "first Berkeley Software Distribution (1BSD), which was released on March 9, 1978"

        I'm sure there was open source code before that too..

      • by houghi (78078)

        I would say it started with copyright law, as that makes a clear difference between open and closed source. That would lace it in 1709 [wikipedia.org]. No copyright, no difference between open and closed source.

      • by toby (759) on Tuesday December 28, 2010 @12:49PM (#34687784) Homepage Journal
        RMS ignited the modern revolutionary era of free software with his extraordinary legal invention, the GPL - but anyone informed in this area knows that the idea of freely sharing source code, for many of the same benefits underlined in the GPL and open source licenses, dates back at least to the 1950s and IBM SHARE.
    • Try more than 15 years since the movement began. When the history ain't right I don't bother to RTFA.

      Yeah... That's what I was thinking... Maybe they're talking about the official OSI or something?

      Open Source has been around for a lot longer than 12 years though...

    • The other day NPR stated that "Even North Carolina where the first shots of the Civil War where fired".....
      It was South Carolina....
      Yea when they can not get even get history at the level of a third grader right you do have to wonder.

      • Yea when they can not get even get history at the level of a third grader right you do have to wonder.

        Where's there a third grade that covers the Civil War in that level of detail?

        And really, who can tell the Carolinas apart? :P

      • by gmhowell (26755)

        What show? All NPR, like all OSS, is not alike.

        • by LWATCDR (28044)

          one of there news briefs. Frankly it was just an error but rather disappointing from any news service. I found it very disappointing for NPR as I expect more from them.

  • 12 years ago there was linux. and even before that, there was stallman. and a number of hairy guys together with him. the movement goes way back.

    obligatory : get out of my lawn
    • Re:12 years ? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Mongoose Disciple (722373) on Tuesday December 28, 2010 @12:15PM (#34687290)

      RTFA!

      Seriously, is it that important to get an early post in that no one who read even the first sentence of the article would write?

      • by Shikaku (1129753)

        You must be new here, good sir. We don't read the article and sometimes not even the summary, we just post words and hope it's modded up.

        • See, watch:

          1) I, for one, welcome our Open Source dupe overlords, but do they run Linux?
          2) ???
          3) Natalie profits, naked and petrified and covered in hot grits.

          • See, watch:

            1) I, for one, welcome our Open Source dupe overlords, but do they run Linux?
            2) ???
            3) Natalie profits, naked and petrified and covered in hot grits.

            Yeah! With frickin' laser beams attached to their heads!

          • See, watch:

            1) I, for one, welcome our Open Source dupe overlords, but do they run Linux?

            Well, they certainly aren't running HURD.

            Now imagine a Beowulf clusterfuck of these guys... er on second thought, can we get some brain bleach here please?

        • by Abstrackt (609015)

          ... we just post words and hope it's modded up.

          That's how I write the progress reports I give to my boss!

  • Being of the church of Stallman, this article feels like lip service to open source, with an apologists focus on oracle and an all-around marginalization of the GPL in favour of the BSD license and supposed adoration of Larry's new pay model for traditionally open source apps.

    that having been said, ill be blagging this on my gopher site if anyone needs me.

    • Being of the church of Stallman, this article feels like lip service to open source, with an apologists focus on oracle and an all-around marginalization of the GPL in favour of the BSD license and supposed adoration of Larry's new pay model for traditionally open source apps.

      that having been said, ill be blagging this on my gopher site if anyone needs me.

      New pay model?

      Wasn't SCO was charging for their open source software more than 10 years ago? I've managed to actually blot out the name of the package though.

  • Allow me... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheCarp (96830) <sjc@noSPAM.carpanet.net> on Tuesday December 28, 2010 @12:12PM (#34687246) Homepage

    12 years ago, seven people in a room coined the term "open source", in an attempt to rebrand the much older "Free Software" movement, and launched what initially seemed like a quixotic exercise, to convince corporate drones who can't look past the CYA service contract, without having to admit that good work can be done by people without a profit incentive, and the whole world is not beholden to their stock market god.

    • Re:Allow me... (Score:4, Informative)

      by Abcd1234 (188840) on Tuesday December 28, 2010 @12:37PM (#34687630) Homepage

      12 years ago, seven people in a room coined the term "open source", in an attempt to rebrand the much older "Free Software" movement

      Huh?

      To say the "open source" movement was an attempt to rebrand "free software" is to completely misunderstand history. The movement to create the OSS brand name was all about broadening the tent to include licenses and models beyond the narrow vision held by RMS.

      See, prior to OSS, "Free Software" meant the GPL. That's it, that's all. As such, anything under that banner was, quite understandably, considered dangerous by commercial companies building closed-source applications (cue flamewar about the viral nature of the GPL).

      OSS was an attempt to broaden that view, including the BSD and MIT licenses, among many others, and to open people's eyes to more than just the GPL orthodoxy. And it worked. We now have a wide variety of licenses to choose from... the aforementioned BSD and MIT licenses, the Perl license, ASF, MPL, CDDL, etc, etc, not to mention the good ol' GPL. All of these fall under the OSS banner, but only one of them is "Free Software" (tm).

      • by kobaz (107760)

        See, prior to OSS, "Free Software" meant the GPL. That's it, that's all.

        Free software has been around since the beginning of computing. The GPL is only a recent invention. What makes you think that free software means GPL in any form whatsoever?

      • Re:Allow me... (Score:5, Informative)

        by david_thornley (598059) on Tuesday December 28, 2010 @03:23PM (#34689998)

        I don't have documents that old, but back in the day Stallman was pushing the GPL because GPLed software stayed free, not because it was the only free software. Since then, the FSF has published, on its website, some of Stallman's writings on the point.

        Stallman has defined what Free Software is (it's his term, I guess he gets to define it), and provided a list of Free Software licenses (along, of course, with notes on which are copyleft licenses and which compatible with the GPL). You can go look it up.

        Stallman's view on the terms is that he was explicitly fostering a social movement for Free Software (one of his oddities is that he considers non-Free Software to be immoral), and believes the Open Source movement to be fostering a technical movement, which is much less threatening to business but doesn't serve his ends nearly as well.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        > See, prior to OSS, "Free Software" meant the GPL. That's it, that's all.
        > As such, anything under that banner was, quite understandably, considered
        > dangerous by commercial companies building closed-source applications (cue
        > flamewar about the viral nature of the GPL).

        Certainly the FSF's GNU project didn't see it that way, they list a big whopping list of non-copyleft licenses as being free software.
        http://www.gnu.org/licenses/license-list.html [gnu.org]

        (This isn't revisionism either, they endorsed the

      • You're kidding (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Bruce Perens (3872) <bruce@perens.com> on Tuesday December 28, 2010 @05:55PM (#34691806) Homepage Journal
        Free Software licenses and Open Source licenses are the same licenses to this day. RMS has always accepted BSD as a free software license. There are some licenses that are not GPL-compatible but still considered to be Free.
    • 'seven people in a room coined the term "open source"...'

      Still, seems like the term has been around longer than that. I remember installing my first slackware installation and that was back in '94, and I seem to recall the "slackware" was synonymous with "open source", and both terms were in use. But that's going back a bit and my feeble mind imagines pink elephants explaining how to mount fs' on Ubuntu these days so I dunno...

  • The last time I checked, it had just touched the $1 billion mark [linuxtoday.com].

    The article too says just that [forbes.com].

  • tens of millions of devices run ^nix only because in the 1990s MS screwed up with IE and Windows 2000/2003 and tried to push everything into the kernel. as the mobile device market was just being born then, the manufacturers turned to ^nix because it was so modular and you could grab small bits and pieces for your product.

    Windows is still used on desktops and laptops but look around you and everything runs ^nix

    • by jedidiah (1196)

      Thank Bill Gates for making crap?

      I'd rather not. I would rather just be free to use something better.

      It doesn't even have to be Free Software really. Although Free Software is almost the only thing that can resist a monopoly.

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      Windows is still used on desktops and laptops but look around you and everything runs ^nix

      The thing that OSS contributed, though, was that the ^nix that was being run on all these things was freely distributed and pulling in the best ideas from every person or organization willing to contribute, rather than some devices running AIX with all the stuff IBM's engineers had thought of, while some other devices were running Solaris with all the stuff Sun's engineers had thought of, while still others were running SCO Unix with all the stuff old-school SCO had thought of, etc.

      • by alen (225700)

        but what the last 10 years have shown us is that even free has a cost. most of Apple's products are based on OSS software and yet apple still spends a lot of money on product development. same with HTC, Moto, the old Linksys and others. unless you want to be a brand X wifi router seller making the cheapest product you have to extend the original code and that costs a lot of money.

        where MS screwed up is that back in the days when the linux kernel was 8MB the Windows kernel was something like 10 times that. f

  • by h00manist (800926) on Tuesday December 28, 2010 @12:32PM (#34687550) Journal
    First, I wish there were more people in organizing, coordination, mediating disputes. Like any human activity, too much time is wasted due to disputes and/or insuficcient coordination. Projects are abandoned, good people get frustrated, tired, upset, split, and end up duplicating efforts. I don't know of any group coordinating growth strategies, recommending methods to talk to new enthusiasts, how to *better* explain the ideas to new people, how to help people with common questions effectively, not just supplying a convincing answer, but actually resolving, or if not possible, taking note of the issues, and where to take them for proper addressing.
    Second, I wish there were more encouraging, funding, advocacy, promoting and educating strategies. Funding, especially, seems to suffer from old models. The Humble Indie Bundle strategy, Summer of Code, and bounties seem like innovative ideas that are working.

    For example, the main competition for open-source actually seems to be pirate-ware. People always consider open-source when faced with actually paying for software. What strategy should open-source take with this? None? Open standards, as well as standards in general, seem to greatly help open source. How can projects better incorporate them? I guess I'm saying more studies of strategies, and recommended guidelines for developers and users, seem like they could help a great deal.
    • by jejones (115979)

      Good point. I recall long ago in high school state history being told that Governor Edmonson put an end to Prohibition in Oklahoma... by enforcing it. How can we put an end to the strategy of turning a blind eye to piracy until the target population is hooked?

    • I think the business model has been and still is the biggest problem. How do you earn a living doing open source software? Solve that, and all the rest of those problems are as good as solved.

      Sure, we have Red Hat going with the "Software As A Service" model, and grudgingly supporting their red headed stepchild, Fedora. And the "Ad Supported" model of which Google is the current king. Sun's approach was the "Loss Leader" method, for where the real money was: hardware sales. And of course the pretend

      • You seem to have missed one of the major sources of fuding, if not the most major source. People and businesses want the softwarefor some reason, so they work on it or pay others to work on it. See e.g. IBM.

    • by Kjella (173770)

      To put it bluntly, it's a bazaar not a commune. For the most part people don't pool their time, take consensus on what the community wants and turn that into an overall plan and direction for the project. It's more that every individual works on what they want - or in the case of employed people, what their employers want - and where the project is going is simply the sum of where the individuals are taking it. That you often have a project leader or core group does not really mean they have much authority

  • 12 years later, and people are still confused between what Free Software, Open Source and FLOSS means. The movement seems to have had added more confusion than what they tried to solve. I wouldn't really call that much of a success. Also, the OSI haven't really done much more than set up some definitions and approve some licenses. While that in itself can be quite valuable, they seem to get a lot of credit for things they had absolutely no part of.
  • Open source code wasn't originally a feature, it was taken for granted. The perverse idea of "proprietary" software only gained a foothold much, much later.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Stallman started gcc 20+ years ago. Witout that and his GPL, this "movement" wouldn't exist.

  • by david.emery (127135) on Tuesday December 28, 2010 @12:44PM (#34687732)

    You know, the one about the Data General ad in response to the press release how IBM "legitimizes the minicomputer", that said "The bastards say welcome..."

    I give Perens & Raymond a lot of credit for 'legitimizing' the term, but certainly the concepts and the execution had been going on MUCH longer than "the last 12 years."

    A lot of government contracts in the '70s and early '80s (and probably before that) came with source code and you could grab lots of it over Arpanet/early Internet if you had access. What I think Richard Stallman did was promote the -economic philosophy- that you should (a) always get source code ("free beer"); (b) have the right to modify that source code and redistribute the results ("free speech").

    So we need to keep a couple of things straight:
          1. 'access to source'
          2. 'free (as in beer) software'
          3. 'free (as in speech) modification and redistribution of software'
          4. 'community development/maintenance'
    These are usually combined into the term "open source", but they are 4 distinct aspects of that term.

  • I don't know how long ago open source software came to the PC , but in 1986 I was using an Amiga and there was free software with source code included on the "Fish Disks" library.

    • by Frankie70 (803801)

      Even on the PC, I had Nibbles with QBasic source code on MS DOS before I had ever heard of Stallman.

  • by joneshenry (9497) on Tuesday December 28, 2010 @02:23PM (#34689218)

    On page 4 of Kenneth H. Rosen, Richard R. Rosinski, James M. Farber, and Douglas A. Host, UNIX System V Release 4: An Introduction, 2nd Edition, the subsection titled "Open Source Code" has the following first two sentences:

    "The source code for the UNIX System, and not just the executable code, has been made available to users and programmers. Because of this, many people have been able to adapt the UNIX System in different ways. This openness has led to the introduction of a wide range of new features and versions customized to meet special needs."

    The book by Rosen et al. cited above is has year of copyright 1996. There is apparently an earlier edition from 1990. This is no ordinary book by obscure authors--it was considered as one of the "bibles" for its subject at its time and would have been familiar to many. Already in the above description there are the crucial concepts of the importance of source code availability and adaptability.

  • by aeoo (568706) on Tuesday December 28, 2010 @04:12PM (#34690694) Journal

    Today, open source is mainstream, with original believers such as Red Hat worth billions and superpowers such as Oracle buying in.

    Can we please chill with the rhetoric? Oracle is not a superpower, for fuck's sake. Secondly, Oracle's relationship with open source is not entirely clear. Oracle currently seems to be at odds with at least some open source initiatives. So I wouldn't be saying that Oracle is "buying in" if I were in your place.

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