In the world of affiliate marketing, understanding cookies is crucial.

You may have come across the term “cookie” before, but do you really know what it means in the context of affiliate marketing?

Cookies play a pivotal role in this industry, serving as tiny trackers that gather information about the interactions between customers and affiliate marketers.

This article aims to shed light on the mystery of cookies and how they impact affiliate marketing.

So, get ready to unravel the secrets behind these digital morsels and discover their significance in the affiliate marketing realm.

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Understanding Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is a popular form of online marketing where businesses reward affiliates for promoting their products or services and driving traffic or sales to their websites.

Affiliates, also known as publishers or partners, earn a commission or a percentage of the sale whenever someone makes a purchase through their affiliate links.

Definition of affiliate marketing

In simple terms, affiliate marketing can be defined as a performance-based marketing strategy where affiliates earn a commission for promoting products or services and generating sales or leads for the business they are affiliated with.

This type of marketing has gained immense popularity in recent years due to its effectiveness and relatively low cost compared to traditional forms of advertising.

How affiliate marketing works

The process of affiliate marketing involves three key players: the merchant or advertiser, the affiliate, and the customer.

The merchant is the business that offers products or services, the affiliate is the individual or company that promotes these products or services, and the customer is the person who makes a purchase through the affiliate’s referral link.

First, the affiliate joins an affiliate program offered by the merchant.

They are provided with unique tracking links or affiliate URLs that they can use to promote the merchant’s products.

When a customer clicks on the affiliate link and makes a purchase, a cookie is placed on their device, which helps track the referral back to the affiliate.

The cookie contains information such as the affiliate’s ID or unique identifier, the referring URL, and the timestamp of the click.

This information is crucial for accurately attributing the sale to the affiliate and ensuring they receive the proper commission.

Importance of affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing offers several benefits for both merchants and affiliates.

For merchants, it is a cost-effective way to reach a wider audience and increase sales.

By partnering with affiliates who have established audiences and online platforms, merchants can tap into new markets and benefit from the affiliate’s expertise in promoting products.

On the other hand, affiliates can earn passive income by promoting products or services they genuinely believe in.

They have the flexibility to choose which products to promote, and they can leverage their existing audience or build a new one to drive traffic and generate sales.

Additionally, affiliates often receive support and resources from merchants, such as marketing materials or exclusive discounts to offer their audience.

Overall, affiliate marketing is a win-win for both merchants and affiliates, enabling them to establish mutually beneficial partnerships and drive revenue growth.

Defining a Cookie in Digital Context

In the digital context, a cookie refers to a small piece of data that is stored on a user’s device while they browse a website.

It is created by the website and sent to the user’s browser, where it is stored and later retrieved when the user visits the same website again.

General definition of a cookie

Cookies are essentially text files that contain information about the user’s browsing behavior and preferences.

They serve various purposes, such as maintaining user sessions, providing personalized experiences, and tracking user interactions on websites.

Role and importance of cookies in digital platforms

Cookies play a crucial role in enhancing the user experience on digital platforms.

They enable websites to remember user preferences, such as language settings or login credentials, which creates a seamless and personalized browsing experience.

Without cookies, users would need to re-enter their information each time they visit a website.

Furthermore, cookies are instrumental in providing targeted advertising and tracking user behavior.

Advertisers and marketers can use cookies to collect data on user interactions, such as the pages visited or products viewed, and deliver more relevant and personalized advertisements that align with the user’s interests.

Examples of how cookies are used in digital marketing

In digital marketing, cookies are widely used to track user behavior and provide valuable insights for businesses.

For example, an online retailer can use cookies to track a user’s browsing history on their website, enabling them to personalize product recommendations or display relevant ads based on the user’s interests.

Similarly, cookies are utilized in affiliate marketing to attribute sales or leads to specific affiliates.

When a user makes a purchase through an affiliate’s referral link, a cookie is placed on their device.

This cookie allows the affiliate program to track and attribute the sale to the respective affiliate, ensuring they receive the proper commission.

Overall, cookies are integral to the functioning of digital platforms and play a pivotal role in enhancing user experiences, providing insights for businesses, and facilitating various marketing strategies, including affiliate marketing.

What Is A Cookie In Affiliate Marketing?

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In-depth Understanding of Cookies in Affiliate Marketing

When it comes to affiliate marketing, cookies play a crucial role in tracking and attributing sales or leads to specific affiliates.

Understanding the concept of cookies in affiliate marketing is essential for both affiliates and merchants alike.

Defining a cookie in affiliate marketing

In the context of affiliate marketing, a cookie is a small file that is placed on a user’s device when they click on an affiliate’s referral link.

This cookie contains information such as the affiliate’s unique identifier or ID, the referring URL, and the timestamp of the click.

The purpose of the cookie is to track the user’s interactions and ensure that the affiliate who referred them is properly credited for any subsequent purchases or actions taken on the merchant’s website.

Without cookies, it would be challenging to accurately attribute sales to specific affiliates and calculate their commissions.

Role of a cookie in affiliate marketing

The primary role of a cookie in affiliate marketing is to track and attribute sales or leads to specific affiliates.

When a user clicks on an affiliate’s referral link, a cookie is placed on their device, identifying the affiliate as the referrer.

This cookie remains active for a certain duration, typically ranging from a few hours to several months, depending on the cookie lifetime set by the merchant.

Throughout the cookie’s lifespan, any actions or purchases made by the user on the merchant’s website are attributed to the affiliate.

This allows the affiliate program to accurately track and calculate commissions based on the referred traffic or sales generated by each affiliate.

How cookies function in affiliate marketing

Cookies in affiliate marketing operate based on the concept of “last click attribution.

This means that the last affiliate link clicked by the user before making a purchase receives credit for the sale.

The cookie associated with that affiliate’s link is then used to track the user’s interactions and attribute any subsequent purchases to the same affiliate.

For example, imagine a user clicks on Affiliate A’s link but doesn’t make a purchase immediately.

Later, they visit the merchant’s website directly or through a different affiliate’s link.

In this case, the cookie from Affiliate A’s link will no longer be active, and the sale will be attributed to the last affiliate’s link that was clicked before the purchase.

It’s important to note that cookies have a duration or lifetime set by the merchant.

Once the cookie expires, the affiliate will no longer be credited for any actions or purchases made by the user.

Types of Cookies in Affiliate Marketing

In affiliate marketing, there are different types of cookies used to track user interactions and attribute sales or leads to affiliates.

Understanding these cookie types is crucial for both affiliates and merchants to effectively track and manage their affiliate programs.

First-party cookies

First-party cookies are created and managed by the website that the user is directly interacting with.

In affiliate marketing, first-party cookies are essential for accurately attributing sales or leads to specific affiliates.

They are placed on the user’s device when they click on an affiliate’s referral link and are used to track their interactions on the merchant’s website.

Third-party cookies

Third-party cookies are created and managed by third-party companies that have a presence on the website the user is visiting.

These cookies are commonly used for tracking purposes, such as serving targeted advertisements or analyzing user behavior across multiple websites.

In the context of affiliate marketing, third-party cookies can be utilized to track user interactions and attribute sales to specific affiliates, even if the user follows a referral path that includes multiple websites.

Session cookies

Session cookies are temporary cookies that are deleted once the user closes their browser.

They are used to maintain user sessions and store temporary information during a user’s visit to a website.

In affiliate marketing, session cookies can be employed to track user interactions and attribute sales or leads within a single browsing session.

These cookies are typically active for a short duration, such as a few hours or until the user closes their browser.

Persistent cookies

Persistent cookies, also known as permanent cookies, have a longer lifespan compared to session cookies.

They remain on the user’s device even after they close their browser and are used to store information that can be accessed during subsequent visits to a website.

In affiliate marketing, persistent cookies are crucial for accurately attributing sales or leads to specific affiliates beyond a single browsing session.

These cookies can stay active for days, weeks, or even months, depending on the duration set by the merchant.

What Is A Cookie In Affiliate Marketing?

How Cookies Track Affiliate Sales

Cookies play a vital role in tracking affiliate sales and ensuring that affiliates receive proper credit for their referral efforts.

Understanding how cookies track affiliate sales is essential for both affiliates and merchants to leverage the full potential of affiliate marketing.

Process of tracking affiliate sales through cookies

The process of tracking affiliate sales through cookies involves several steps:

  1. The user clicks on an affiliate’s referral link.
  2. A cookie is placed on the user’s device, containing information such as the affiliate’s unique ID and the timestamp of the click.
  3. The user is redirected to the merchant’s website, where their actions and purchases are tracked.
  4. When a sale or lead is generated, the cookie is checked to identify the affiliate who referred the user.
  5. If the cookie is valid and within its lifetime, the sale is attributed to the respective affiliate.
  6. The affiliate’s commission is calculated based on the predefined commission structure, and they receive credit for the sale.

Importance of cookies in tracking affiliate sales

Cookies are crucial for accurately tracking affiliate sales and attributing them to the correct affiliates.

They provide a reliable and efficient method for identifying the affiliate who referred a customer, even if the purchase is made at a later time or through a different device.

Without cookies, it would be challenging to track and manage affiliate sales effectively.

Affiliates may not receive proper credit for their referrals, leading to disputes and dissatisfaction.

Cookies ensure transparency and accountability in affiliate marketing by providing a clear record of user interactions and the respective affiliates involved.

Example scenarios of tracking affiliate sales with cookies

To better understand how cookies track affiliate sales, let’s consider a few scenarios:

  1. Scenario 1: User clicks on Affiliate A’s link, browses the merchant’s website, and makes a purchase within the cookie’s lifetime. The sale is properly attributed to Affiliate A, and they receive the commission.
  2. Scenario 2: User clicks on Affiliate A’s link but does not make an immediate purchase. Later, they revisit the merchant’s website directly, without using any affiliate links. In this case, Affiliate A’s cookie has expired, and the sale will not be attributed to any affiliate.
  3. Scenario 3: User clicks on Affiliate A’s link, adds items to their shopping cart, but does not complete the purchase. After some time, they return to the merchant’s website through Affiliate B’s link and complete the purchase. In this scenario, the sale will be attributed to Affiliate B, as they were the last affiliate’s link clicked before the purchase.

These examples illustrate how cookies play a crucial role in accurately attributing sales to specific affiliates, ensuring they receive proper credit for their marketing efforts.

Lifetime of Affiliate Cookies

The lifetime of affiliate cookies refers to the duration for which a cookie remains active on a user’s device and enables tracking and attribution of sales or leads to specific affiliates.

Understanding cookie lifetime is crucial for both affiliates and merchants as it directly impacts affiliate earnings and program performance.

Definition of cookie lifetime in affiliate marketing

Cookie lifetime, also known as cookie duration, refers to the period during which a cookie remains active on a user’s device, allowing the tracking and attribution of affiliate sales.

This duration is predetermined by the merchant and can vary significantly.

Different affiliate programs may have varying cookie lifetimes, ranging from a few hours to several months.

It is important for affiliates to understand the cookie lifetime offered by the merchant they are partnering with to accurately plan and evaluate their marketing strategies.

Determining factors for cookie lifetime

Several factors influence the determination of cookie lifetime in affiliate marketing:

  1. Conversion Window: The typical time it takes for a customer to make a purchase after clicking on an affiliate’s link plays a crucial role in determining the cookie’s lifetime. Longer conversion windows may require longer cookie lifetimes to ensure affiliates receive credit for delayed purchases.
  2. average Sales Cycle: Understanding the average time it takes for a customer to complete a purchase can help merchants set an appropriate cookie lifetime. If the sales cycle is longer, a longer cookie lifetime is necessary to properly attribute affiliate sales.
  3. Products or Services: The nature of the products or services being promoted can also impact the cookie’s lifetime. Higher-priced or complex products may have a longer sales cycle, requiring a longer cookie lifetime for accurate attribution.
  4. Industry Standards: Merchants may consider industry standards and competitor practices when determining the cookie lifetime. Aligning with industry norms can help ensure fairness and competitiveness in the affiliate program.

Implications of cookie lifetime on affiliate earnings

The length of the cookie lifetime directly impacts affiliate earnings and the effectiveness of affiliate marketing efforts.

A longer cookie lifetime provides affiliates with a larger window of opportunity to generate sales or leads, leading to potentially higher commissions.

Affiliates with longer cookie lifetimes can benefit from delayed purchases or repeat customers who return to the merchant’s website within the cookie’s active duration.

On the other hand, affiliates with shorter cookie lifetimes have a narrower timeframe to convert their referrals into sales.

It is important for affiliates to consider the cookie lifetime offered by different affiliate programs and choose partnerships that align with their marketing strategies and target audience behavior.

Merchants, on the other hand, need to carefully balance cookie lifetime to incentivize affiliates while ensuring a fair attribution system.

Limitations and Challenges with Affiliate Cookies

While affiliate cookies are an effective and widely used tracking method, they are not without limitations and challenges.

Affiliates and merchants need to be aware of these potential issues to address them appropriately and optimize their affiliate marketing strategies.

Common issues with using cookies in affiliate marketing

  1. Cookie Blocking: Some users may actively block or delete cookies from their browsers, which can hinder the tracking and attribution of sales to affiliates. This can result in missed commissions for affiliates and inaccurate performance measurement for merchants.
  2. Cross-Device Tracking: Cookies are device-specific, meaning that if a user switches devices or browsers, the affiliate’s cookie will not be carried over, potentially leading to lost commissions. Cross-device tracking techniques, such as fingerprinting, can help mitigate this issue to some extent.
  3. Ad-Blockers: Users who have ad-blockers installed on their browsers often block cookies associated with advertisements or tracking. This can impact the effectiveness of affiliate marketing efforts, particularly in reaching and tracking users who employ ad-blockers.
  4. Limited Lifespan: Cookie lifetimes vary depending on the merchant, and some cookies may expire relatively quickly. This can pose challenges for affiliates, especially those promoting products with longer sales cycles or targeting users who delay their purchases.

Effect of changes in browsing habits and technology on cookies

As browsing habits and technology evolve, the effectiveness of affiliate cookies may be influenced by various factors:

  1. Privacy Concerns: Growing privacy concerns have led to increased awareness and regulation regarding the use of cookies. Users are becoming more conscious of their online privacy and may actively delete cookies or use privacy-focused browsers that limit tracking.
  2. Increasing Mobile Usage: With the rise of mobile devices, users are increasingly accessing websites and making purchases through smartphones and tablets. However, tracking cookies on mobile devices can be more challenging due to limitations imposed by operating systems and browsers.
  3. Shift Towards App-Based Commerce: In-app purchases and transactions are becoming more prevalent, particularly in the e-commerce sector. However, tracking affiliate sales within mobile apps presents unique challenges, as cookies are not typically utilized in this context.
  4. Advances in Tracking Technologies: Technological advancements such as server-to-server tracking, API integrations, and multi-touch attribution models are emerging as alternatives to traditional cookie-based tracking. These advancements aim to address some of the limitations of affiliate cookies and provide more accurate tracking and attribution methods.

How affiliates can overcome challenges with cookies

Affiliates can employ various strategies to overcome the challenges associated with cookies in affiliate marketing:

  1. Diversify Marketing Channels: Relying solely on cookies for tracking and attribution may limit an affiliate’s reach. By diversifying their marketing channels, such as utilizing email marketing or engaging in influencer partnerships, affiliates can mitigate the impact of potential cookie-related issues.
  2. Educate Users on the Benefits: Communicating the benefits of allowing cookies, such as personalized experiences or exclusive offers, can help alleviate concerns and encourage users to enable cookies.
  3. Leverage Cross-Device Solutions: Affiliates can explore cross-device tracking solutions or technologies that allow them to track and attribute sales across different devices used by the same user. This can help reduce the impact of device switching on cookie-based tracking.
  4. Explore Cookieless Tracking Alternatives: As the landscape of digital marketing evolves, affiliates can adapt by exploring emerging cookieless tracking methods, such as fingerprinting, which utilize other unique identifiers or data points for tracking purposes.

By staying informed about the challenges associated with cookies and adopting proactive strategies, affiliates can optimize their affiliate marketing efforts and ensure they are maximizing their commission potential.

Workarounds for Cookieless Tracking

In light of privacy concerns and technological advancements, cookieless tracking methods are gaining traction as alternatives to traditional cookie-based tracking.

Understanding these workarounds is crucial for affiliates and merchants to adapt to the changing landscape of tracking and attribution in affiliate marketing.

Alternative methods for tracking conversions

  1. Fingerprinting: Fingerprinting is a cookieless tracking method that utilizes various data points, such as user agent information, IP address, and device characteristics, to create a unique fingerprint for each user. This fingerprint can be used to track and attribute conversions without relying on cookies.
  2. Device Graphs: Device graphs are databases that link multiple devices used by the same user based on cross-device identifiers. This enables tracking and attribution across different devices, even without the use of cookies.
  3. Probabilistic Matching: Probabilistic matching is a statistical method that analyzes various data points, such as browsing behavior and device characteristics, to probabilistically match users across different devices or platforms. This can help track and attribute conversions without relying on cookies.

Emerging technologies for affiliate tracking

Advancements in technology are paving the way for new tracking methods that can be utilized in affiliate marketing:

  1. Server-to-Server Tracking: Server-to-server tracking involves direct communication between the merchant’s server and the affiliate’s tracking system, bypassing the need for cookies. This method provides real-time tracking and accurate attribution, as the tracking happens on the server side.
  2. API Integrations: Application Programming Interface (API) integrations allow affiliates to directly integrate with the merchant’s system, enabling seamless tracking and attribution without relying on cookies. This method facilitates more accurate and reliable tracking, as the data is communicated directly between the systems.
  3. Blockchain Technology: Blockchain technology offers the potential for secure and transparent tracking and attribution in affiliate marketing. By utilizing decentralized and distributed ledgers, blockchain can provide a tamper-resistant and auditable system for tracking conversions.

Advantages and disadvantages of cookieless tracking

Cookieless tracking methods present both advantages and disadvantages for affiliates and merchants:

Advantages of cookieless tracking:

  • Compliance with privacy regulations: Cookieless tracking methods can address privacy concerns by reducing reliance on traditional cookies, thus aligning with privacy regulations like GDPR and CCPA.
  • Cross-device tracking: Cookieless tracking methods enable tracking and attribution across different devices, allowing for a more accurate representation of user behavior and enabling affiliates to receive proper credit for their referrals.
  • Future-proofing: As the use of cookies becomes more restricted, adopting cookieless tracking methods prepares affiliates and merchants for the evolving landscape of digital marketing.

Disadvantages of cookieless tracking:

  • Technological complexity: Cookieless tracking methods often require more advanced technologies and integrations, which can be complex and resource-intensive for affiliates and merchants to implement.
  • Limited scope: Some cookieless tracking methods may have limitations in terms of data accuracy or coverage compared to traditional cookie-based tracking. This can impact the overall effectiveness of affiliate marketing efforts.

Affiliates and merchants should carefully evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of cookieless tracking methods to determine the most suitable approach for their specific needs and goals.

Impact of Privacy Laws and Regulations on Affiliate Cookies

In recent years, privacy laws and regulations have become increasingly stringent, impacting the use of cookies in affiliate marketing.

Adhering to these regulations is crucial for affiliates and merchants to ensure compliance and protect user privacy.

Overview of Privacy Laws Influencing Affiliate Marketing

One of the most influential privacy laws impacting affiliate marketing is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union.

The GDPR sets strict guidelines for the collection, processing, and storage of personal data, including the use of cookies.

Additionally, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in the United States has introduced similar requirements and rights for consumers regarding their personal data.

The CCPA grants consumers the right to opt out of the sale of their personal information, which could include cookies used for tracking purposes.

Several other countries and regions are also implementing or proposing privacy laws and regulations that impact the use of cookies and online tracking, such as the ePrivacy Regulation in the EU.

Implications of laws like GDPR and CCPA on affiliate cookies

Privacy laws like GDPR and CCPA have several implications for the use of cookies in affiliate marketing:

  1. User Consent: Under these laws, affiliates and merchants must obtain explicit user consent before placing cookies on their devices. Users must be provided with clear information about the purpose and duration of cookies and have the option to opt out or withdraw consent.
  2. Data Protection and Security: Privacy laws require adequate measures to protect user data collected through cookies. This includes implementing appropriate security measures and ensuring that data is processed and stored securely.
  3. Data Subject Rights: Privacy laws grant users certain rights, such as the right to access, correct, and delete their personal data. Affiliates and merchants must be prepared to handle user requests related to their personal data collected through cookies.
  4. Enhanced Transparency: Privacy laws emphasize transparency in data collection and processing practices. Affiliates and merchants should provide clear and concise privacy policies and disclosures regarding the use of cookies and data collection practices.

Best practices for complying with privacy regulations

To ensure compliance with privacy regulations and protect user privacy, affiliates, and merchants should consider implementing the following best practices:

  1. Obtain Consent: Seek explicit consent from users before placing any cookies on their devices. Provide clear information about the purpose, duration, and use of cookies and offer a mechanism for users to opt out or withdraw consent.
  2. Update Privacy Policies: Review and update privacy policies to clearly describe the use of cookies and data collection practices. Ensure that policies are easily accessible for users to understand how their data is being used.
  3. Implement Data Protection Measures: Put in place appropriate security measures to protect user data collected through cookies. This includes encryption, access controls, and regular security audits.
  4. Provide Opt-Out Mechanisms: Offer users the ability to opt out of cookie tracking or targeted advertising. Provide clear instructions on how to exercise this option and respect user preferences.

By adhering to best practices and staying up to date with privacy regulations, affiliates and merchants can build trust with users, ensure compliance, and protect user privacy in the context of affiliate marketing.

Future of Cookies in Affiliate Marketing

As technology continues to evolve and privacy concerns grow, the future of cookies in affiliate marketing is subject to change.

It is important for affiliates and merchants to stay informed about emerging trends and potential advancements that may impact the use of cookies.

Trends influencing the use of cookies in affiliate marketing

  1. Privacy-Focused Browsers: The growing popularity of privacy-focused browsers, such as Brave and Firefox, along with built-in privacy features in mainstream browsers, poses challenges for cookie-based tracking. Affiliates and merchants may need to adapt their tracking methods to ensure accurate attribution.
  2. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning: Advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning can revolutionize tracking and attribution in affiliate marketing. These technologies can analyze vast amounts of data, identify patterns, and make predictions without relying heavily on traditional cookie tracking.
  3. Contextual Targeting: With increased privacy concerns, contextual targeting is gaining prominence as an alternative to personalized advertising based on user data. Affiliates and merchants can leverage contextual targeting to reach their target audience without relying heavily on tracking cookies.

Impact of technological advancements on cookies and tracking

Technological advancements have both positive and negative implications for the use of cookies in affiliate marketing:

Positive implications:

  • Enhanced tracking accuracy: Emerging technologies, such as server-to-server tracking and fingerprinting, can provide more accurate tracking and attribution without the limitations imposed by traditional cookies.
  • Improved user experience: Technological advancements can enable personalized experiences without relying heavily on user data or tracking cookies, allowing affiliates and merchants to create tailored offerings based on contextual information.

Negative implications:

  • Increased privacy concerns: Privacy-focused technologies and regulations may further limit the use of tracking cookies, requiring affiliates and merchants to adapt their tracking methods accordingly.
  • Fragmentation of tracking methods: As alternative tracking methods gain traction, affiliates, and merchants may need to navigate a fragmented landscape of tracking technologies, impacting standardization and compatibility.

Predictions for cookies in the future of affiliate marketing

While the future of cookies in affiliate marketing remains uncertain, several predictions can be made:

  1. Evolving Tracking Methods: Affiliate marketing will likely witness a shift towards more advanced tracking methods, such as fingerprinting and server-to-server tracking, as alternatives to traditional cookies.
  2. Increased Focus on Contextual Data: Contextual data, such as website content or user intent, will gain importance for targeting and personalization. Affiliates and merchants will need to adapt their strategies to leverage contextual information effectively.
  3. Stricter Privacy Regulations: Privacy regulations will continue to evolve, potentially imposing further restrictions on tracking cookies. Affiliates and merchants will need to invest in compliant tracking methods and prioritize user privacy.
  4. Collaboration and Integration: Affiliates, merchants, and tracking solution providers may collaborate and integrate their systems to ensure efficient tracking and attribution in a changing landscape.

In conclusion, the future of cookies in affiliate marketing is influenced by various factors, including privacy concerns, technological advancements, and regulatory developments.

Affiliates and merchants must remain adaptable and proactive to navigate these changes and ensure the continued success of affiliate marketing strategies.

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