Windows Live Messenger

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Windows Live Logo Windows Live Messenger
Windows Live Messenger Icon

Windows Live Messenger 2009 main window
Developed by Microsoft
Initial release July 22, 1999 (as MSN Messenger)
December 13, 2005 (as Windows Live Messenger)
Latest release 2009 (Build 14.0.8064.206) / 2009-02-12; 54 days ago
Operating system Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, Windows Mobile and S60 on Symbian OS 9.x
Available in Over 50 languages
Development status Active
Type Instant messaging client
License adware

Windows Live Messenger (formerly named MSN Messenger, and colloquially referred to as simply MSN) is an instant messaging client created by Microsoft that is currently designed to work with Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008, and Windows Mobile. The client has been part of Microsoft's Windows Live set of online services since 2005. It connects to Microsoft's .NET Messenger Service. The client was first released as MSN Messenger on July 22, 1999,[1] and as Windows Live Messenger on December 13, 2005.[2]


[edit] Features

In addition to its basic functionality and general capability as an instant messaging client, Windows Live Messenger offers the following features:

[edit] Sharing folders

The Sharing Folder feature, unique to Windows Live Messenger, is an alternative to the "direct transfer" method of file distribution. When a user wants to deliver a file to another person on his or her contact list, the "sharing folder" window appears, which is an individualized representation of all previously shared items.

When files are added to the "sharing folder" for that particular person, the file will automatically be transferred to the corresponding computer when they are online. This means that the folder is literally "shared" between two computers. If a user deletes a file, for example, the file will also be deleted from the corresponding computer's shared folder.

To minimize risk of virus-infected transfers, the "sharing folder" feature is bundled with an anti-virus program. The "sharing folder" feature can only be used on computers with NTFS-formatted hard disks.

The Sharing Folder feature has been discontinued in the latest version of Windows Live Messenger (2009), and replaced with access to Windows Live SkyDrive instead.

[edit] PC-to-phone calls

In addition to PC-to-PC calls that have been supported in previous versions, Windows Live Messenger now supports PC-to-phone calls with Windows Live Call. In the US, this feature is supported by Verizon, branded as "Verizon Web Calling". Orange France also has a similar service. This feature is only available in selected countries, including the US, the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Ireland, Finland, Belgium, Spain, and Italy. Verizon ended service in August 2008 and was replaced in the US with Telefonica, while Orange will offer the service for the rest of the world.

[edit] Interoperability

On October 13, 2005, Yahoo! and Microsoft announced plans to introduce interoperability between their two messengers,[3] creating the second largest instant messaging user base worldwide: 40 percent of all users. The announcement came after years of third-party interoperability success (most notably, Trillian, Pidgin) and criticisms from Google that the major real time communications services were locking their networks.[citation needed]

Interoperability between Yahoo! and Windows Live Messenger was launched July 12, 2006.[4][5] This allows Yahoo! and Windows Live Messenger users to chat to each other without the need to create an account on the other service, provided both contacts use the latest versions of the clients. However, if a user uses an older or third-party client, they will appear offline to the users on the other network.

Windows Live Messenger 2009 is expected to improve multi-client support, adding Google Talk, AOL, ICQ and XMPP to the list. [6]

[edit] Offline messaging

One can send messages to contacts who are offline; they will receive the messages once they come online. Additionally, a user can start conversations even when his or her status is set to Appear Offline, similar to behavior in Yahoo! Messenger and ICQ. If talking to someone who has an older MSN Messenger client, they will lose the ability to talk to you after a short period of no activity, due to their client thinking you are offline.

[edit] Games and applications

There are various games and applications available in Windows Live Messenger that can be accessed via the conversation window by clicking on the games icon, and challenging your friend or contact to a competition in a game, or inviting them to launch a shared external application.

[edit] "i’m" initiative

The i’m initiative is a program Microsoft launched in March 2007, that connects the user with ten organizations dedicated to social causes through Windows Live Messenger, only for conversations sent or received in the USA. Every time someone has a conversation using i’m, Microsoft Corp. shares a portion of the program's advertising revenue with the organization of the user's choice. There is no set cap on the amount donated to each organization. The more i’m conversations the user has, the more money goes to one of the ten causes. Each participating organization is guaranteed a minimum donation of $100,000 during the first year of the program. There is currently no end date for the program.[7] The i’m initiative works with version 8.1 and above.

Screenshot of Windows Live Messenger running on a S60 Platform device, showing the contacts screen and tabbed chat windows, features to add voice, image and other clips, and a range of emoticons available

[edit] S60 Platform

A client for Windows Live Messenger was developed by Microsoft for the Symbian S60 Platform commonly used in mobile phones such as Nokia smartphones and released on August 23, 2007, to selected markets. This version of Windows Live Messenger includes many of the features of the Windows Live Messenger client, including grouped contacts, voice clips, image and file sending; as well as features unique to S60 such as tabbed chat windows and integration with contact list and other features of the S60 platform. [8] Microsoft installed a prompt at the start of Windows Live Messenger for S60 at Logon [9] When the trial expires the cost to users of Messenger for S60 is £1.50/$2.94 for 30 calendar days of use.

[edit] Xbox integration

Windows Live Messenger support was included in the Xbox 360 spring 2007 dashboard update released on May 9, 2007.[10] Unofficially, it is known as "Windows Live Messenger 360."

Those using Windows Live Messenger are able to see the Gamertags of friends logged into Xbox Live, including the game they are playing. Xbox 360 users can chat in-game (or while watching a movie). Although only text chat is supported, Microsoft has suggested that voice and video chatting may come in a future update. Support for child accounts was added in December 2007.

Also to coincide with the arrival of the integration of Windows Live Messenger with Xbox Live, Microsoft released a new Xbox 360 keyboard adapter called Xbox 360 Chatpad for easier text input. The keyboard device attaches to the standard Xbox 360 controller through the headphone jack and features a QWERTY-style key layout with 47 backlit keys, although any USB keyboard will work just as well with an Xbox 360.

[edit] History

[edit] MSN Messenger

MSN Messenger logo, 2000-2005

Before the product was renamed Windows Live Messenger, it was known as "MSN Messenger Service" from 1999 to 2001 and "MSN Messenger" from 2001 to 2005. During that time, Microsoft released seven major versions as follows.

The first version of MSN Messenger Service, version 1.0 (1.0.0863), was released July 22, 1999. It included only basic features, such as plain text messaging and a simplistic contact list. When it was first released, it featured support for access to America Online's AIM network. America Online continually tried to block Microsoft from having access to their service until eventually the feature was removed, and it has not re-surfaced in any later versions of the software.[11] Since then, the software has only allowed connections to its own service, requiring a Windows Live ID account to connect.

Microsoft released the first major update, version 2.0 (2.0.0083), on November 16, 1999. It included a rotating advertising banner and the ability to customize the appearance of the chat window. It came as an install option for Windows Me. This version was followed the next year by version 3.0 (3.0.0080), which was released May 29, 2000. It included file transfers and PC-to-PC and PC-to-phone audio capabilities with Net2Phone, one of the first VOIP providers.

Along with the release of Windows XP came version 4.6 of MSN Messenger, on October 23, 2001. It included major changes to the user interface, the ability to group contacts, and support for voice conversations. In this version, the client software was renamed from "MSN Messenger Service" to just "MSN Messenger," while the underlying service became known as ".NET Messenger Service," the name it has kept ever since. This version was only compatible with Windows 95, 98, Me, NT 4.0, and 2000, because Microsoft provided a scaled-down new program for Windows XP, called Windows Messenger, that it originally intended to replace MSN Messenger on Windows XP.

That strategy changed when version 5.0 of MSN Messenger was released on October 24, 2002. It was the first version that was allowed to be installed along with Windows Messenger on Windows XP. It included UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) based file transfers, minor changes to the user interface artwork, and a Windows Media Player interface plug-in.

The next year, version 6.0 of MSN Messenger was released July 17, 2003. MSN Messenger 6.0 was a major overhaul of the whole platform, upgrading its simple text-based interface to include customizable elements such as emoticons, personalized avatars, and backgrounds. An update, version 6.1, focused on improvements to the conversation window, enabling users to hide the window frame and menu bar, and also the ability to change the theme color. The theme color could be set differently for each user. Another update, version 6.2, was released April 22, 2004, and it was the last version of the MSN Messenger 6 series. The most notable changes were a dedicated Mobile group for mobile contacts, a connection troubleshooter, and the Launch Site feature was renamed to Fun & Games.

MSN Messenger received a major upgrade to version 7.0 on April 7, 2005. This version brought wink features that were previously only available in threedegrees. This version also advertised items to sell to you including animated display pictures, emoticons and backgrounds. The contact list window style was also updated to match instant message windows. This version also introduced the Xbox Live Integration feature. This is the last version of MSN Messenger that runs on Windows 98 and Windows Me. This version also introduced digital ink and handwriting recognition support.

The last version of MSN Messenger before the name change, version 7.5, was released August 23, 2005. New features included the Dynamic Backgrounds feature and the "msnim" protocol handler, which allowed Web sites to provide links which automatically add a contact or start conversations. Additionally, a new Voice Clips feature allowed users to hold down F2 and record a message for a maximum of 15 seconds and send it to the recipient. The window for conversations was changed slightly with an added video button. This version also introduced the Windows Installer for its auto-update feature.[12]

[edit] Windows Live Messenger 8.0

Windows Live Messenger 8.1

As part of Microsoft's Windows Live effort, which rebranded many existing MSN services and programs, MSN Messenger was renamed "Windows Live Messenger" beginning with version 8.0.

The first beta of the newly renamed Windows Live Messenger, Beta 1, was released on December 13, 2005.[2] It remained online and usable for around a month until an auto-update feature forced one to install Beta 2, rendering this version obsolete. Known bugs within this version include the offline conversation feature: although still advertised in the yellow bar at the top of the conversation box, it was useless to anyone who had not received an invitation (i.e., downloaded it from another site).[13] Major changes and additions included offline messaging, an option to change the color theme of the windows, separated send and search boxes, a word wheel search box in the main window, and additional details for contacts when hovering over their names in the contact list window.

The second beta of version 8.0, Beta 2, was released on February 26, 2006.[2] The overall theme of this version was improved, fixing and improving several smaller places in the program. This version has become obsolete, forcing users to update the program. Major changes and additions included the introduction of Windows Live Contacts, the reintroduction of single file transfer, improvements to the "Add a Contact" dialog box, improved color themes, minor changes in the conversation window, and revert of the "Busy" status icon back to the normal dash icon.[14]

The final beta version, Beta 3, was released on May 2, 2006, was nearly identical to the final.[2] Major changes and additions included new icons for the program, PC-to-phone calling, an updated look for the Windows Live Call window, a new default display picture, the Windows Live Today window, improvements to the grouping of sequential messages from each contact, Rhapsody integration in the U.S., and an option for sounds to be edited and/or turned off.[15]

The final and official release of Windows Live Messenger version 8.0 was on June 19, 2006.[2] Although no notable changes were made between Beta 3 and the final version,[16] the change from MSN Messenger to Windows Live Messenger brought some additional changes, such as, the status "On the phone" from the previous version was renamed to "In a call" due to the addition of Windows Live Call, customization for the nicknames of individual contacts, timestamps on messages, the ability to see a contact's name only once if the same person writes multiple messages in a row, and color schemes for the entire application. Also when Windows Live Messenger was officially released, the main authentication system, Microsoft Passport Network, was replaced with Windows Live ID.

An update, labeled the Refresh to version 8.0, was released on August 10, 2006.[2] It included audio and video improvements and fixed up minor bugs.[17]

[edit] Windows Live Messenger 8.1

Windows Live Messenger 8.5

The first update to Windows Live Messenger was previewed on October 30, 2006, with the release of Beta 1 of version 8.1.[2] No major changes were made, but several minor changes were included. The changes and additions included the addition of the roaming identity feature (so that a user's display name and picture would appear on any computer), a new contact card appearance, a "recently used" list for the emoticon, wink, display picture and background menus, an SMS phone book in the main menu allowing the association and editing of a phone number to the contact and allowing text messaging to a contact, a "sign out" button the status menu, a "report abuse" option in the help menu, the ability to chat with Yahoo users introduced with 8.1, and improvements to user status on Windows Vista, so that Windows Live Messenger automatically changes to "Busy" when in presentation mode.[18]

A minor update, the Windows Live Messenger 8.1 Beta 1 Refresh, was released on December 13, 2006,[2] and fixed bugs that were causing some people to be unable to sign in and others unable to see their contact list.[19]

The final version 8.1 was released on January 29, 2007.[2] No changes were made from the Beta 1 Refresh.[20] All versions of Windows Live Messenger below version 8.1 were rendered obsolete on September 12, 2007, due to a security issue identified when a user accepts a webcam or video chat invitation from an attacker.[21]

[edit] Windows Live Messenger 8.5

The news web site, LiveSide, reported a leaked build of Windows Live Messenger 8.5 on May 27, 2007, available in Spanish.[22] The first English beta of Windows Live Messenger 8.5, Beta 1, was later released on May 31, 2007[2] to the U.S., the UK, Canada, Ireland, India, France, Japan, Germany, China, and Spain. An update was released on June 21, 2007, to test updates being installed by Microsoft Update. This version required Windows XP SP2, compared to previous versions requiring Windows XP SP1. It was the first version to be installed in a "Windows Live" folder under "Program Files," with the shortcuts placed in a "Windows Live" folder in the Start Menu.

Major changes and additions in Beta 1 included a new installation program in conjunction with the release of Windows Live 2.0, a new look for all of its windows that matches the aesthetic styles of Windows Vista,[23] a new "bunny" emoticon,[24] and integration with Windows Live OneCare Family Safety.[25] Beginning with this version, updates could be downloaded and installed through Microsoft Update.

The second beta of Windows Live Messenger 8.5, Beta 2, was released on September 5, 2007.[26] Several issues were fixed in Beta 2, but no significant changes were applied. Compared with the first beta, the build does not say "Beta" on the top of the window, although developers had noted that it was not the final release. The new Windows Live Installer, which is used to install Windows Live Messenger 8.5 Beta 2, does not run on Windows Server 2003.

The final release of Windows Live Messenger version 8.5 was released on November 6, 2007, and it introduced no major changes.[27]

[edit] Windows Live Messenger 2009

Windows Live Messenger 2009 on Windows 7.
Windows Live Messenger 2009 conversation window with friend's messenger "scene" on Windows 7.

Windows Live Messenger 2009 was originally designated version 9.0, it was later assigned the technical version number 14.0, in order to be unified with the other Windows Live programs and Microsoft Office programs.

In a presentation to the Georgia Institute of Technology's IEEE Student Branch, Microsoft employee Andrew Jenks reported that the Messenger team had been working on multi-person audio/video chat, and they are also attempting to create interoperability with AIM/XMPP/ICQ users like the way Yahoo! Messenger works now; there is a basic internal version that works with Jabber already.[28] However, these features were not seen in any of the beta versions of Windows Live Messenger 2009 as of Milestone 3.

Microsoft sent an invitation to participate in the Windows Live Messenger "9" beta program to Microsoft Connect members on November 20, 2007; a week later, Microsoft began sending out emails welcoming them to the Windows Live Messenger "9" beta program for the first release, known as Beta 0.

A fan site for Windows Live Messenger,, claimed to have a new build of Windows Live Messenger "9" on August 11, 2008, and published screenshots along with a brief summary of new features. The screenshots featured a new user interface design matching the "Wave 3" design in development by Microsoft. The images were later removed by the site after a DMCA notice was received.[29] The installer for the same build was leaked through private forums on August 23, 2008. It would later be discovered this build was a preview of Milestone 2, or M2.

News web site LiveSide published an article on September 4, 2008, with screenshots of M2 of the newly minted "Windows Live Messenger 2009," which had become version 14.0 instead of 9.0 as previously expected. LiveSide summarized its new features, including protection against messaging spam, the ability to stay signed into the application from several computers (referred to as "Multiple Points of Presence Support"), animated GIF files in the photo area, per-contact customized sounds for various user actions, and clickable URLs in the status area.[30]

Microsoft began the official beta program for Windows Live Messenger 2009 on September 17, 2008, when it released a new beta officially known as Windows Live Messenger 2009 Beta (Milestone 3, Build 14.0.5027.908), which was made available to the general public as a free download. The ability to submit feedback, however, was restricted to select participants of the Microsoft Connect closed beta program.

Notable changes in Milestone 3 include a new revamped and refined user interface to follow suit with the rest of the Windows Live "Wave 3" design, the ability to set a "Scene" by customizing the background image and color of the contact list, and the display of these scenes in conversation windows for improved contact identification and window management.

Milestone 3 also brings a new "Groups" feature that allows users to create a continuous group conversation between select contacts, newly redesigned and more easily identifiable status icons which now resemble small gems rather than the previous "Messenger Buddy" icons, a new default "Favorites" category in which you can place your favorite contacts for easy access to them, a new Photo Sharing utility that allows contacts to quickly and easily browse photos together, and a "What's New" section at the bottom of the contact list to outline recent contact updates. Display pictures have been moved over to the left side of conversation windows, and new colorful borders appear around display pictures to display the current status of that contact. Milestone 3 is the first version of Windows Live Messenger to use the standard window frame on Windows Vista in accordance with the user experience guidelines.

Several features were removed in version 9.0 however, such as the ability to transfer files when the recipient is signed in as offline, the "Be right back," "Out to lunch," and "In a call" status options [31], the ability to adjust webcam settings during a video call, the Send button [32], some games (depending on your localization) and integration with Windows Contacts [33]. Other features were replaced, such as Sharing Folders [34] (replaced by integration with Windows Live SkyDrive), background sharing (replaced by the "Scene" feature) and the Go to my space button (replaced by a right-click context menu item).

On December 15, 2008, Windows Live Messenger 2009 RC (Build 14.0.8050.1202) was released together with the other Windows Live Wave 3 software applications, now renamed as Windows Live Essentials.[35] This version saw a removal of the custom sign-in sound feature however it is still possible to select a sound for other individuals, as well as changes to how the background image chosen is applied to the conversation windows. This build also included over 200 bug fixes including the "Custom Emoticon Bug" and saving of pictures when using the Photo sharing feature. On January 7, 2009, the same build was released as the final version of Windows Live Messenger 2009.[36]

[edit] Malware

Windows Live Messenger (along with other networks such as Yahoo! Messenger and AOL Instant Messenger) is often used as a conduit or "vector" for delivering malicious software such as spyware, viruses, worms and trojans to unsuspecting computer users. The two methods used by hackers to deliver malware over the IM vector are (1) sending a file transfer with a virus-infected file, and (2) delivering a message with socially engineered content including a web address (URL) containing active malicious code. Viruses and worms such as W32.Yalove or Troj/Msnfake-L have been identified as targeting users of Windows Live Messenger over the past few years.

[edit] Threat of infection

The threat of infection by these two methods is substantial and growing. The IM Security Center,[37] a collaboration between security companies and corporations, has tracked attacks over IM since 2003 and shows well over 1300 distinct attacks over the public IM networks. The first half of 2007 saw an 84% increase in IM attacks over the first half of 2006. While IM-specific attacks remain a small percentage of overall virus and malware threats, the continued growth in usage of IM, along with the rapid adoption of IM in the workplace (See Instant Messaging) make IM an attractive vector for hackers, and both individuals and companies must take precautions to avoid infection.

Worms and viruses are discovered on a regular basis by security companies, particularly by the three companies with network-certified IM-specific security products, Akonix Systems, FaceTime Communications, and Symantec. According to IM security researchers at Akonix, the mean number of new threats per month identified during the period January 2006 through June 2008 is 28, with a high of 88 in October 2006, and a standard deviation of 18.[37]

[edit] Common methods

The most common method of delivering a malicious payload is the use of social engineering to construct a message that appears to be coming from a contact on the recipient's contact list. A socially engineered message is one that is written in a friendly, informal manner, that could easily be mistaken as coming from a friend. The message usually will say something like "Click here to see pics of me from vacation!" or "Is this you?" with a web address -- known as a "poison URL" -- for the recipient to click.

Upon clicking the web address, the recipient is connected to a website containing active content, which is immediately downloaded to the recipient's computer. In most cases, the payload contains an installer, a number of hidden files containing text, and code which causes the same socially engineered message with poison URL to be sent to every contact on the contact list. When the message is sent to all contacts, the cycle starts again, as each contact believes they are receiving a message from a trusted friend. In this manner, IM-borne malware is capable of propagating very rapidly through company and external networks.

[edit] File scanning

People can set up Windows Live Messenger to use their own PC anti-virus software to scan all the files they receive through IM and File Sharing by using the File Transfer Options.[38] Alternatively, Windows Live OneCare Safety Scanner, a free online virus scanner from Microsoft, is a well-integrated virus scanner for use with Windows Live Messenger.

[edit] Security vulnerability

On September 12, 2007, the Windows Live Messenger blog posted an entry that reported of a security vulnerability discovered in versions of Messenger older than 8.1. The vulnerability "could allow remote code execution when a user accepts a webcam or video chat invitation from an attacker. An attacker who successfully exploited this vulnerability could take complete control of the affected system." This led to an auto-update being released to all older versions. Versions running on Windows 2000 and below were required to update to a new version of MSN Messenger 7.0, and versions running on Windows XP and above were required to update to Windows Live Messenger 8.1.[21]

[edit] Protocol

Windows Live Messenger uses the Microsoft Notification Protocol (MSNP) over TCP (and optionally over HTTP to deal with proxies) to connect to the .NET Messenger Service—a service offered on port 1863 of "" The current version is 15 (MSNP15), used by Windows Live Messenger and other third-party clients. MSNP15 introduces a different authentication mechanism.

The protocol is not completely secret; Microsoft disclosed version 2 (MSNP2) to developers in 1999 in an Internet Draft, but never released versions 8 or higher to the public. The .NET Messenger Service servers currently only accept protocol versions from 8 and higher, so the syntax of new commands sent from versions 8 and higher is only known by using packet sniffers like Wireshark.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ Microsoft Launches MSN Messenger Service
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Windows Live Messenger release dates from official blog
  3. ^ Yahoo and MSN marry IM services,, 2005-10-13
  4. ^ Yahoo Interoperability Arrives
  5. ^ Microsoft Press Release: Yahoo! and Microsoft Bridge Global Instant Messaging Communities
  6. ^ Georgia Tech presentation “New Messenger API” unveiled
  7. ^
  8. ^ Nokia Europe - Windows Live
  9. ^ Microsoft set to milk mobile Messenger mavens? | The Register
  10. ^ News on Spring 2007 Update from
  11. ^ "AOL blocks Microsoft Net messaging". CNET 
  12. ^ "Patching". Microsoft Developer Network. 
  13. ^ Windows Live Messenger 8.0 Beta 1 blog entry
  14. ^ Windows Live Messenger 8.0 Beta 2 blog entry
  15. ^ Windows Live Messenger 8.0 Beta 3 blog entry
  16. ^ Windows Live Messenger 8.0 Final release blog entry
  17. ^ Windows Live Messenger 8.0 Final Refresh blog entry
  18. ^ Windows Live Messenger 8.1 Beta 1 blog entry
  19. ^ Windows Live Messenger 8.1 Beta Refresh blog entry
  20. ^ Windows Live Messenger 8.1 Final blog entry
  21. ^ a b Windows Live Messenger blog: Upgrading to 8.1
  22. ^ Windows Live Messenger 8.5 - A First Look: from
  23. ^ Windows Live Messenger 8.5 Beta 1 blog entry
  24. ^ Details about the bunny emoticon at the Windows Live Messenger blog
  25. ^ Windows Live Messenger 8.5 beta available from
  26. ^ Windows Live Messenger 8.5 Beta 2 blog entry
  27. ^ Official Windows Live Messenger team blog: Announcing Windows Live Messenger 8.5!
  28. ^ Messenger 9, GTalk integration, Messenger API, new client for Mac OS X - news unveiled at Georgia Tech presentation (whew)
  29. ^ News post at of exclusive 9.0 build
  30. ^ Jeremy Kirk. "Microsoft to clamp down on spam over IM". IDG News. Retrieved on 2007-11-24. 
  31. ^ Get back the statuses which were removed from WLM 2009
  32. ^ Unable to send typed messages - no send button
  33. ^ Where has the "encrypt contact list data" option gone?
  34. ^ Windows Live Messenger 9.0, No Sharing Folders?
  35. ^ Refreshing the Windows Live Essentials beta
  36. ^ Windows Live Essentials is ready to download
  37. ^ a b The IM Security Center
  38. ^ Microsoft Press Release: Windows Live Messenger

[edit] External links

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