Airbnb - Wikipedia
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August 2008; 10 years ago (2008-08) in San Francisco, CaliforniaFounders
Brian CheskyJoe GebbiaNathan BlecharczykHeadquarters
888 Brannan Street, San Francisco, CaliforniaArea served
Brian Chesky (CEO)Joe Gebbia (CPO)Nathan Blecharczyk (CTO)Services
Hospitality servicePeer-to-peer property rentalRevenue
$2.6 billion (2017)Operating income
$450 million (2017)Net income
$93 million (2017)Number of employees
Footnotes / referencesAirbnb, Inc. is a company based in San Francisco that operates an online marketplace and hospitality service for people to lease or rent short-term lodging including holiday cottages, apartments, homestays, hostel beds, or hotel rooms, to participate in or facilitate experiences related to tourism such as walking tours, and to make reservations at restaurants. The company does not own any real estate or conduct tours; it is a broker that receives percentage service fees in conjunction with every booking. The company has over 5 million lodging listings in 81,000 cities and 191 countries and has facilitated over 300 million check-ins.
1 Product overview
1.2 Financial benefits
1.3 Legality of offering lodging
1.4 Taxation of income earned by hosts
1.5 Safety mechanisms
1.6 Neighborhoods travel guide
1.7 Airbnb Concerts
1.8 Airbnb for Work
3 Corporate information
3.1 Office locations
4.1 Fair housing implications and discrimination
4.3 Pricing transparency
4.4 Guest review system
4.5 Boycott over Israeli settlements
4.6 Housing affordability
4.7 Use of double Irish arrangement
4.8 Loopholes allowing for scams by hosts
4.9 Misuse by long-term tenants
4.10 Competition with the hotel industry
4.11 Government actions involving Airbnb and short-term rental
6 External links
Airbnb iPhone app screenshot
Airbnb can be accessed via either its websites or mobile apps for iOS, Apple Watch, and Android. Registration and account creation is free. However, before booking, users must provide a valid name, email address, telephone number, photo, and payment information. Some hosts also require a scan of a government-issued ID before accepting a reservation.Users can search for lodging using a variety of filters including lodging type, dates, location, and price.Users can create a listing by selecting the "Host" menu after logging in. A listing will not go live until the host is ready to publish. Pricing is determined by the host, with recommendations from Airbnb. Hosts can charge different prices for nightly, weekly, and monthly stays and can make adjustments for seasonal pricing. Hosts add descriptions of the residence, amenities, available dates, cancellation policies, any rules that must be agreed to by guests and are advised to upload photos of the lodging that is offered. Potential guests are required to message the host directly through Airbnb to ask questions regarding the property. Unless the host has enabled "instant book", in which case requests for stays are accepted automatically, a host has 24 hours to accept or decline a booking. After the reservation, hosts coordinate meeting times and contact information with guests.
With each booking, the company charges guests a 0–20% guest services fee and charges hosts a 3% host service fee. For "experiences", such as walking tours, the company takes a 20% commission from the host.
Many people on the brink of losing their homes through foreclosure due to financial hardship have come to depend on Airbnb for additional income. In the U.S., homeowners who refinance their mortgages with some agencies are able to count income they earn from their Airbnb rentals on their refinance loan applications.
Legality of offering lodging
Some cities have restrictions on subletting for a short period of time. In some cities, collection of a transient occupancy tax by Airbnb is required. In many cities, hosts must register with the government and obtain a permit or license. Airbnb has published a list of regulations and requirements by city; however, only cities in the United States are included. Also, many landlords or community associations have restrictions on short-term sublets.
Taxation of income earned by hosts
Hosts may be required to pay income taxes on income received via Airbnb and, in the United States, Airbnb sends tax forms to hosts that have earned over $20,000 in rents and received over 200 reservations via Airbnb in a calendar year. In 2016, the Ministry of the Treasury of Spain sent letters to property owners that have not declared income associated with Airbnb. In Australia, insiders said in 2016 that the hosts of the 75,000 properties listed on Airbnb would likely face increased chances of being audited.
Airbnb had to overcome the obstacle of "stranger danger" to build a level of trust between hosts and guests and instill confidence in its platform. Founder Joe Gebbia has said that Airbnb is specifically "designed for trust" via the following safety mechanisms:
Airbnb requires each member to complete a profile and upload photos so that members can learn about their hosts and guests ahead of time.
After the guest completes a stay, the host and guest have the option of leaving references for each other and reviews of their stay, which are posted publicly, providing for a reputation.
Airbnb recommends that hosts obtain insurance which covers damages caused by guests. Airbnb offers US$1,000,000 of secondary insurance, called its "host guarantee", which covers property damage due to vandalism and theft. When first launched in August 2011, the program covered up to US$50,000 but the maximum was later increased to US$1,000,000.
The site provides a logged private messaging system as a channel for users to message one another privately before booking and accepting reservations. Without identity assurances, any reviews cannot be attached to the member or the member to any review.
Any Airbnb host can require their prospective guests to obtain "Verified IDs" before booking, meaning that they are required to scan a government-issued ID to verify their identity.
An Airbnb account can be linked to accounts on social networking services such as Facebook, thus providing the host with data on common friends and interests.Neighborhoods travel guide
"Neighborhoods" is a travel guide that provides in-depth information for selected neighborhoods in 23 major cities through photos, essays, maps, tags from locals, and assessments of various criteria that would be of interest to guests such as public transportation, dining, peace & quiet, nightlife, tourist attractions, and shopping, thereby helping travelers choose the ideal neighborhood to stay in via collaborative filtering. The Airbnb product team hand-mapped hundreds of neighborhoods within these 23 cities and had local editors curate content for each neighborhood. Airbnb also added 70 street photographers who generated 40,000 photographs for the project.
In February 2018, Airbnb launched "Airbnb Concerts", a music experience based project. Music fans can find local musical gigs they are interested in on its website.
Airbnb for Work
Business travelers who want to book a business trip on Airbnb can choose to join their company's existing Airbnb for Work account. They must first register their work email address to their Airbnb user account if their company is already registered with Airbnb. After a company is registered, travelers can search properties that are "Business Travel Ready" to book a property that will provide the necessary work amenities and privacy without sacrificing the Airbnb experience.
See also: Timeline of Airbnb
Airbnb founder Joe Gebbia (right)
Shortly after moving to San Francisco in October 2007, roommates and former schoolmates Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia could not afford the rent for their loft apartment. Chesky and Gebbia came up with the idea of putting an air mattress in their living room and turning it into a bed and breakfast. The goal at first was just "to make a few bucks". In February 2008, Nathan Blecharczyk, Chesky's former roommate, joined as the Chief Technology Officer and the third co-founder of the new venture, which they named AirBed & Breakfast. They put together a website which offered short-term living quarters, breakfast, and a unique business networking opportunity for those who were unable to book a hotel in the saturated market. The site Airbedandbreakfast.com officially launched on August 11, 2008. The founders had their first customers in town in the summer of 2008, during the Industrial Design Conference held by Industrial Designers Society of America, where travelers had a hard time finding lodging in the city.To help fund the site, the founders created special edition breakfast cereals, with presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain as the inspiration for "Obama O's" and "Cap'n McCains". In two months, 800 boxes of cereal were sold at $40 each, which generated more than $30,000 for the company's incubation. It also got the company noticed by computer programmer Paul Graham, who invited the founders to the January 2009 winter training session of his startup incubator, Y Combinator, which provided them with training and $20,000 in funding in exchange for a small interest in the company. With the website already built, they used the $20,000 Y-Combinator investment to fly to New York City to meet users and promote the site. They returned to San Francisco with a profitable business model to present to West Coast investors. By March 2009, the site had 10,000 users and 2,500 listings.In March 2009, the name of the company was shortened to Airbnb.com, and the site's content had expanded from air beds and shared spaces to a variety of properties including entire homes and apartments, private rooms, castles, boats, manors, tree houses, tipis, igloos, private islands and other properties.One year later, there were 15 people working from Chesky and Gebbia's loft apartment on Rausch Street in San Francisco. To make room for employees, Brian Chesky gave up his bedroom and lived at lodging booked via the Airbnb service until the company moved into its first office space, and in April 2009, the company received $600,000 in seed money from Sequoia Capital. In November 2010, the company raised $7.2 million in financing from Greylock Partners and again from Sequoia Capital in a Series A round and announced that out of 700,000 nights booked, 80% had occurred in the past six months.In February 2011, Airbnb announced its 1 millionth night booked. In January 2012, the company announced its 5 millionth night booked. In June 2012, Airbnb announced 10 million nights booked, doubling business in the previous 5 months. Of these bookings, 75% of the business came from markets outside of the continental United States.
In mid-2011, Airbnb began offering US$50,000 of secondary insurance, called its "host guarantee", which covers property damage due to vandalism and theft. In May 2012, the company increased the amount to US$1,000,000.On May 9, 2011, Airbnb added a feature called "Social Connections" that allows users to see if they have common friends with hosts or guests via Facebook.On May 25, 2011, Ashton Kutcher, an actor and partner at A-Grade Investments, announced a significant investment in the company and his role as a strategic brand advisor for the company.On May 31, 2011, Airbnb acquired a German competitor, Accoleo. This takeover, as well as other similar acquisitions, launched the first international Airbnb office, in Hamburg.At the 2011 South by Southwest conference, Airbnb won the "app" award.In October 2011, Airbnb established an office in London, its second international office.Due to the growth of international end-users, in early 2012, Airbnb opened offices in Paris, Milan, Barcelona, Copenhagen, Moscow, and São Paulo. These openings were in addition to existing offices in San Francisco, London, Hamburg, and Berlin. In September 2013, the company announced that it would establish its European headquarters in Dublin. Prior to the 2012 Summer Olympics, Airbnb acquired London-based rival CrashPadder, subsequently adding 6,000 international listings to its existing inventory. This acquisition made Airbnb the largest lodging website in the United Kingdom.In June 2012, Airbnb launched a wish list feature, offering users the ability to create a curated catalog of lodgings that they would like to visit and share these lists with other users.In November 2012, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Airbnb partnered with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to offer free housing for persons displaced by the storm. Airbnb built a microsite for this effort alone where victims register for housing and meet property owners with free housing. Additionally, Airbnb waived all service fees associated with these listings while maintaining the Host Guarantee for all properties listed.In November 2012, Airbnb opened an office in Sydney, Australia, its 11th office location, and announced plans to launch the service in Thailand and Indonesia. At that time, Australian consumers accounted for 10% of the Airbnb user base, and in December that same year, Airbnb announced its strategy to move more aggressively into the Asian market with the launch of an office in Singapore.In November 2012, Airbnb acquired NabeWise, a city guide that aggregates curated information for specified locations. The acquisition shifted the company focus toward offering hyperlocal recommendations to travelers. That same month, Airbnb launched "Neighborhoods", a travel guide of 23 cities that provides in-depth information via collaborative filtering to help travelers choose a neighborhood in which to stay based on criteria such as public transportation, dining, peace & quiet, nightlife, tourist attractions, and shopping.In December 2012, Airbnb announced the acquisition of Localmind. Localmind is a location-based question and answer platform that allows users to post questions about specific locations online. These questions are then answered in real-time by experts on the specified territories.By October 2013, Airbnb had served 9 million guests since its founding in August 2008, and in December 2013, the company reported it had over 6 million new guests in 2013, and nearly 250,000 properties were added in 2013.In July 2014, Airbnb revealed design revisions to the site and mobile app and introduced a new logo. Some considered the new logo to be visually similar to genitalia, but a consumer survey by Survata showed only a minority of respondents thought this was the case.In July 2014, Airbnb became the official jersey sponsor for the Australia men's national basketball team at the 2014 Basketball World Cup.In April 2015, following the Obama administration's easing of restrictions on U.S. businesses to operate in Cuba, Airbnb expanded to Cuba, making it one of the first U.S. companies to do so.In June 2015, Airbnb sponsored the Manor F1 Team and the Airbnb logo appeared on the front nose of the cars and on team wear including the drivers' overalls.In August 2015, Airbnb partnered with Tesla Motors to provide chargers at certain host houses.In the summer of 2016, at the request of three members of the United States Senate, the Federal Trade Commission began investigating how Airbnb affected housing costs. In October that same year, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill charging Airbnb fines for violations of local housing laws. The New York Times reported that these events were related and part of a "plan that the hotel association started in early 2016 to thwart Airbnb".In January 2017, Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb, posted on Twitter that the company will give free housing to refugees and any others not allowed into the United States as a result of Donald Trump’s Executive Order 13769, which temporarily banned refugees from the United States. Airbnb also led a $13 million investment in restaurant reservation-booking app, Resy, along with serial entrepreneurs Gary Vaynerchuk, Ben Leventhal and Mike Montero.Airbnb first became profitable during the second half of 2016. Airbnb's revenue grew more than 80% from 2015 to 2016.In February 2017, Airbnb acquired Luxury Retreats International, a Canadian-based villa rental company, for approximately $300 million in cash and stock, its largest acquisition to date.In February 2017, Airbnb acquired Tilt, a social payment startup. On November 28, 2017, Airbnb began allowing users to split payments with up to 16 other travelers.On November 16, 2017, Airbnb acquired Accomable, a startup focused on travel accessibility.In February 2018, Brian Chesky revealed the company is considering launching an airline.In February 2018, Airbnb announced Airbnb Plus, a collection of homes that have been vetted for quality of services, comfort and design, as well as Beyond by Airbnb, which will offer luxury vacation rentals.On May 30, 2018, CEO Brian Chesky said Airbnb "will be ready to IPO next year, but I don't know if we will."
Airbnb has offices in the following 20 cities:
Miami (Florida, US)
New Delhi (India)
Portland (Oregon, US)
San Francisco (California, US)
São Paulo (Brazil)
Seoul (South Korea)
Airbnb's headquarters at 888 Brannan Street, in San Francisco, California.
The company's first venture funding was a $20,000 investment by Y Combinator in 2009.
In April 2009, the company raised $600,000 from Sequoia Capital, with Youniversity Ventures partners Jawed Karim, Keith Rabois, and Kevin Hartz participating.In November 2010, it raised $7.2 million in a financing round led by Greylock Partners. In July 2011, it raised $112 million in financing led by Andreessen Horowitz. Other early investors included Digital Sky Technologies, General Catalyst Partners, and A Grade Investments partners Ashton Kutcher and Guy Oseary.
In April 2014, the company closed on an investment of US$450 million by TPG Capital at a company valuation of approximately US$10 billion. Additional funding was provided by Andreessen Horowitz, Sequoia Capital, Dragoneer Investment Group, T. Rowe Price and Sherpa Capital.In June 2015, Airbnb raised US$1.5 billion in a Series E funding led by General Atlantic, and joined by Hillhouse Capital Group, Tiger Management, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, GGV Capital, China Broadband Capital, and Horizons Ventures.In September 2016, Airbnb raised US$555.5 million in funding from Google Capital and Technology Crossover Ventures, valuing the company at US$30 billion.In March 2017, Airbnb raised US$1 billion in funding, bringing total funding raised to more than US$3 billion and valuing the company at US$31 billion.
Fair housing implications and discrimination
In July 2016, former Attorney General Eric Holder was hired to help craft an anti-discrimination policy for Airbnb after the company faced many complaints related to racism, including a study by Harvard Business School that showed widespread discrimination by hosts against guests whose names suggested that they were black.
Airbnb's identity verification system "Verified ID" has been perceived by many customers as excessively intrusive. It requires three layers of customer identification: telephone, photo of ID (such as passport or driver's license), and verification of Facebook, LinkedIn or Google+ account.
Airbnb uses drip pricing; when customers search for lodging, Airbnb displays per-night prices that exclude its service fees and the total charges are not revealed until the customer selects an individual property. After a crackdown by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in October 2015, users of Airbnb's Australian web site now see the total price of a stay including all unavoidable charges at every stage of the booking process.
Guest review system
Airbnb features a review system in which guests and hosts can rate each other after a stay. Hosts and guests are unable to see reviews until both have submitted a review or until the window to review has closed, a system which aims to improve accuracy and objectivity by removing fears that users will receive a negative review in retaliation if they write one. However, the truthfulness and impartiality of reviews may be adversely affected by concerns of future stays because prospective hosts may refuse to host a user who generally leaves negative reviews. In addition, the company's policy requires users to forego anonymity, which may also detract from users' willingness to leave negative reviews. These factors may damage the objectivity of the review system.
Boycott over Israeli settlements
Airbnb is on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions list of companies. The company was added following media reports that lodging listings included settlements in the occupied Palestine that are advertised as being in Israel or in Israeli neighborhoods.
Airbnb has faced criticism regarding its effects on housing affordability. As of the beginning of 2018, several studies found that Airbnb drove up rental prices in many areas due to commercial listings, as landlords keep properties off the longer-term rental market and instead get higher rental rates for short-term housing via Airbnb. Landlords have been accused of illegally evicting tenants in order to convert properties into Airbnb listings. In San Francisco, the issue led to protests in November 2015.Landlords have argued that hosting long-term tenants has been difficult as a result of property damage by the tenants, late rental payments, and over-usage of water resources. Disturbances and other similar issues made long-term rental unattractive to them. By contrast, not only did short-term rentals on Airbnb avoid those issues, but also offered more income. Dealing with difficult long-term tenants also included many legal barriers such as rent regulation requiring an entire legal procedure to be followed which do not allow immediate evictions of problematic tenants in most circumstances.A study published in 2017 found that increasing Airbnb listings in a given neighborhood by 10% leads to a 0.42% increase in rents and a 0.76% increase in house prices. According to an analysis conducted in 2016, while commercial listings comprised only 10% of Airbnb's total listings in 25 largest U. S. markets for the period between June 2015 and May 2016, they constituted about a third of host revenue. In markets such as Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon, the share of revenue from commercial listings reached nearly 50%.Similar concerns have been raised in other parts of the world such as Scotland, where, in 2017, an increase in Airbnb listings alarmed the local community.
Use of double Irish arrangement
The company has been criticized for minimizing its tax liability by setting up a double Irish arrangement through subsidiaries in Ireland and Jersey.
Loopholes allowing for scams by hosts
In 2017, Airbnb was accused by travel blogger Asher Fergusson of failing to close dangerous loopholes allowing for scams by hosts. In many countries including the United States, France, Canada and the United Kingdom, Airbnb doesn't require hosts to provide any form of identification. A host who has been "permanently banned" can set up a new account under a different name and email address. Addresses are not verified so "bad" hosts can list lodging at any address, even if they don't control the property.
Misuse by long-term tenants
Many landlords have complained and resisted long-term tenants who sublet their rented space on Airbnb and profit from it without consent from the landlord. In many cases, landlords cannot instantly evict their tenants for subletting because of rental laws such as the Tenant Protection Act in Ontario. A similar law in Quebec that protects tenants also does not hold them legally eligible when subletting their rented spaces as landlords would in the case of long-term rental. In 2016, Airbnb offered to work with landlords whose tenants list their properties on and launched a program consisting of mutual agreements for subletting if the landlords agreed to it and that it was legal in their local municipalities.In January 2018, a federal court ruled in favor of Airbnb in a lawsuit filed by Aimco involving its tenants illegally subletting their rented spaces on Airbnb. The court defended Airbnb under the Communications Decency Act which does not hold Internet based services liable for the actions of their users. Instead the tenants are believed to be held responsible for illegally subletting their spaces without attaining prior consent from their landlords.
Competition with the hotel industry
Airbnb competes with and has faced opposition from the hotel industry. The excess supply created by Airbnb has forced the hotel industry to lower prices during peak events such as holidays and conventions, when prices and hotel margins have historically been at their highest. The American Hotel and Lodging Association has lobbied governments and has taken credit for additional regulations imposed on Airbnb. The association claims that hotels are unfairly faced with far more safety and security regulations than Airbnb. Hotel chains have also launched products, including experiences, to directly compete with Airbnb. Airbnb has responded by increasing the number of hotels on its platform and introducing a loyalty program.
Government actions involving Airbnb and short-term rental
Legislative bodies around the world have passed legislations attempting to mitigate the effects of Airbnb for their constituents. In 2017, San Francisco passed a law requiring Airbnb hosts to register with the city before they can rent units. Units cannot be rented for more than 90 days a year. Similarly, Portland created a new zoning code in 2016 to regulate short-term rentals and it includes several limitations, such as capping the number of bedrooms in a single unit that may be listed. Additionally, Portland pledged in 2015 to dedicate part of the Airbnb occupancy taxes to affordable housing. Santa Monica released a draft of a city ordinance in 2016 – which has yet to be approved – that would prohibit rent-controlled units from being listed as short-term rentals.In 2017 Indiana state lawmakers considered following a similar model to Arizona, which prevents municipalities from interfering in private property ownership and protects Airbnb hosts. The new proposed legislation would ban municipalities from introducing zoning laws lacing restrictions on private property owners and what they can do on their lands. A 2016 article on Techdirt reported that municipalities aiming to restrict Airbnb and its hosts would be violating Internet law, which according to them, do not allow to punish Internet platforms by law because a host or user failed to comply with local laws.Other U.S. cities that have passed strict regulations on Airbnb include San Francisco and Santa Monica, while New York City in particular has banned short-term rentals of 30 days or less. In January 2017 West New York, New Jersey, a suburb of New York City, passed the same ban.In November of the same year, the Government of Vancouver adopted regulations and restrictions against Airbnb hosting, claiming to protect the long term rental market which it stated was just above zero availability. The new regulations include allowing hosts to be allowed only to rent their principal residence. Hosts would also require a paid license with acquisition and maintenance fees, with a number to be displayed when listing any space for rent. A voluntary transaction fee of three percent was also to be implemented per reservation, but Airbnb claimed it was unable to collect such fees, instead requesting an amendment for the hotel tax.The move was criticized by some rental hosts, stating it would deprive them of much needed income. These implementations were also criticized by the opposing Non-Partisan Association. Councillor George Affleck argued it was creating more bureaucracy, taxation and sticks, which was not solving the problem. He argued it made Vancouver a more difficult and costly place to live, also giving the opinion that more long term rental housing needs to be built. Airbnb's public policy manager for Canada welcomed the move of making short term rental legal, but criticized the ban on secondary suits from being rented. The company was also considering challenging the move, arguing that many family home spaces are saved for friends and relatives and would not be available for the long term rental market regardless.The following month, the Government of Toronto under John Tory, adopted similar restrictions, banning homeowners from leasing their basements with separate entries and their other non-residential units for short term rentals, also arguing it was to protect the long term rental market. Government issued licensing and fees would also be required to hosts to continue to short term renting. The move was also criticized by some hosts who rely on Airbnb as a source of income; with one of them arguing the government's control over their property was like living in Stalin's era of the Soviet Union. Airbnb responded in an open letter to the mayor and members of the City Council, welcoming fair competition but also made several arguments, including that Toronto's economy as a growing global hub also benefited from its listings. Many local residents depend on Airbnb for extra income and living expenses. The new economy evolved business and challenged the older business models and methods. Toronto, according to them, would benefit its reputation by adopting these newer business styles and ideas. It encouraged the city to continue to allow hosts to rent out their owned spaces, whether rooms in their house or in external spaces. All of this, according to Airbnb, brought about two hundred and ninety two million dollars into the city's economy.European cites that have enacted strict regulations on Airbnb, and which have imposed heavy fines for violations of these laws, include Paris, Barcelona, and Berlin. By contrast, Amsterdam and London have been more welcoming to the service. In February 2015, Amsterdam implemented a cooperative effort with Airbnb that incorporated a tourist tax on rentals, and Airbnb's agreement to ensure potential hosts are made aware of required rules and regulations. London passed an amendment to its housing legislation in March 2015 allowing short-term rentals of up to three months a year. In May 2018, Madrid announced plans announced proposals to reduce the number of Airbnb and homeshare listings available to help tackle ‘over-tourism’ in the city. The plan aims to preserve residential houses in the central areas of the city, preventing them from becoming accommodations exclusively for tourists.The European Union (EU) warned member states against banning sharing businesses like Airbnb and Uber, stating that outright bans should be used only as a last resort to attain public interest and that governments should instead implement more moderate regulations, which the sharing companies have had to navigate through. The European Commission advocated the EU's guidelines on regulating sharing businesses companies and warned that they were pulling massive revenues generated estimated at around twenty eight billion Euros across Europe.In 2018, to combat the local housing crisis, the government of Tasmania set up offers between 10,000 and 13,000 Australian dollars to landlords to rent out their spaces for longer terms on lower costs instead of listing them on Airbnb.
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