GB2483488A - Email server which stores message body and attachments in a database and replaces them with hyperlinks to the stored data - Google Patents

Email server which stores message body and attachments in a database and replaces them with hyperlinks to the stored data Download PDF

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Publication number
GB2483488A
GB2483488A GB1015035.7A GB201015035A GB2483488A GB 2483488 A GB2483488 A GB 2483488A GB 201015035 A GB201015035 A GB 201015035A GB 2483488 A GB2483488 A GB 2483488A
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United Kingdom
Prior art keywords
user
message
electronic mail
attachment
database
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Granted
Application number
GB1015035.7A
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GB201015035D0 (en
GB2483488B (en
Inventor
Richard White
Eliad Perpinyal
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Clarkson & Co Ltd H
Original Assignee
Clarkson & Co Ltd H
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Priority to GB1015035.7A priority Critical patent/GB2483488B/en
Publication of GB201015035D0 publication Critical patent/GB201015035D0/en
Publication of GB2483488A publication Critical patent/GB2483488A/en
Application granted granted Critical
Publication of GB2483488B publication Critical patent/GB2483488B/en
Active legal-status Critical Current
Anticipated expiration legal-status Critical

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Classifications

    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04LTRANSMISSION OF DIGITAL INFORMATION, e.g. TELEGRAPHIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04L51/00Arrangements for user-to-user messaging in packet-switching networks, e.g. e-mail or instant messages
    • H04L51/08Messages including annexed information, e.g. attachments
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04LTRANSMISSION OF DIGITAL INFORMATION, e.g. TELEGRAPHIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04L51/00Arrangements for user-to-user messaging in packet-switching networks, e.g. e-mail or instant messages
    • H04L51/06Message adaptation based on network or terminal capabilities
    • H04L12/5825
    • H04L51/42
    • H04L51/224
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04LTRANSMISSION OF DIGITAL INFORMATION, e.g. TELEGRAPHIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04L63/00Network architectures or network communication protocols for network security
    • H04L63/16Implementing security features at a particular protocol layer
    • H04L63/168Implementing security features at a particular protocol layer above the transport layer

Abstract

E-mails 117 sent 105 by user A 101 to user B 103 are processed 107 at user Aâ s server. The server stores the message body and attachments, where applicable, in a database and replaces them with URL hyperlinks to the stored data. This notification message 125 is sent over the internet 119 or other network 121 to user Bâ s server 123, from whence it is eventually retrieved. User B now clicks on the hyperlinks 109 which causes user Aâ s server to show user B the message/attachment 127. Receipt information may be logged by user Aâ s server 111 or sent to user A for review 115. The URL may include an encrypted password for authentication and security.

Description

IMPROVEMENTS IN AND RELATING TO DATA COMMUNICATIONS
Field of the Invention
The present invention relates to a method-and systemfor sending and receiving -electronic mail messages.
Background of the Invention
Electronic mail (email) has become very widely used, particularly for business.
Generally, an email sent from a first user to a second user is transmitted from the first user's device via the first user's Internet Service Provider, the Internet and the second user's Internet Service Provider to the second user's device, although there are a number of variations in the particulars of that transmission. Transmission is becoming increasingly reliable, and businesses today find it usual and, indeed, critical to be able to rely on the safe and quick transmission of email messages, for example to customers, potential customers and suppliers. Conventional email systems do indeed provide a quick and easy means to exchange messages between users. However, the email systems known from
the prior art do suffer a number of drawbacks.
One potential problem is that the nature or size of an email may result in a blockage at one or both of the users' firewalls. A firewall is a part of a computer system or network that is designed to block unauthorized access while permitting authorized communications.
A firewall may be implemented in hardware and/or software, for example between a Local Area Network (LAN) and the Wide Area Network (WAN). A firewall, whilst likely vital for the security and/or integrity of a computer network, may inadvertently block the transmission of larger emails, or emails with large attachments, or emails which are considered (incorrectly) to be spam or junk messages. This means that vital communications may not reach the second user from the first user. Most significantly, the first user may be completely unaware that the second user has not received the message, particularly if it is being blocked by the second user's firewall.
Another potential problem is that larger emails, or emails with large attachments might take a considerable amount of time to be transmitted from the first user's Internet Service Provider to the second user's Internet Service Provider. Transmission time has improved recently, but email users may still have concerns, depending on the transmission protocols used. This time delay is irritating for users and, more significantly, a first user may assume that a second user has received a message, when the second user is yet to receive the message, because of transmission delay. * 2
Several prior art systems have attempted to address these problems. For example, the first user may request a receipt, when the second user has opened or read the first user's message. Such a system may work sporadically, but the inventors of the present invention have found that it cannot be relied upon. There are instances when the message does not appear to have been received by the second user when, in fact, it has been received. More significantly, there are instances when the message does appear to have been received, but has actually only been received at the second user's server, but is still invisible to the second user himself.
Another prior art solution is the use of a network protocol such as the File Transfer Protocol (FTP). This arrangement may solve the problem of different end user configurations, for example different Operating Systems, but FTP is typically used with a user-based password authentication process. Whilst this may solve the problem between a first user and a second user who regularly exchange messages and who are willing and able to set up suitable user access, log ins and passwords, it is not suitable for first time emails between users (for example, a business communicating to new or potential customers), when emails are only sent between particular users from time to time, or when one user is not willing to absorb the time overheads associated with selling up user access.
Accordingly, it is an object of the invention to provide a method and system for sending and receiving electronic mail, which overcomes or mitigates the problems of the
prior art arrangements mentioned above.
Summary of the Invention
According to a first aspect of the invention, there is provided a method for sending electronic mail, the method comprising the steps of: a first user creating an electronic mail message for a second user, the electronic mail message including message content and, optionally, at least one message attachment; sending the electronic mail message from the first user to a server; storing the message content and, if the electronic mail message includes at least one message attachment, the message attachment, in a database accessible by the server; sending an electronic mail notification to the second user, the electronic mail notification including at least one link, the link being clickable by the second user to connect to the server; when the second user connects to the server by clicking on the link, allowing the second user access to the message content in the database and, if the electronic mail message includes at least one message attachment, the message attachment in the database, and recording in the database the access by the second user.
According to the first aspect of the invention, there is also provided a method for receiving electronic mail, the method comprising the steps of: a second user receiving an electronic mail notification relating to an electronic mail message for the second user from a first user, wherein the electronic mail message includes message content and, optionally, at least one message attachment, wherein the electronic mail notification includes at least one link, the link being clickable by the second user to connect to a server, and wherein the server has access to a database having stored therein the message content and, if the electronic mail message includes at least one message attachment, the message attachment, the second user connecting to the to the server by clicking on the link, the second user accessing the message content in the database and, if the electronic mail message includes at least one message attachment, the message attachment in the database, wherein the access by the second user is recorded in the database.
The method allows the first user to be certain that the second user has safely received the message content and, if applicable, message attachment(s). This is because the message content, and, if applicable, message attachment(s), are stored in the database, together with an indication that the message content, and, if applicable, message attachment(s), have been accessed by the second user. That information can be accessed by the first user. This avoids problems of electronic mail transmission known
from prior art systems.
The message content may have any appropriate format, for example the message content may comprise text or html format. Alternatively, the message content may be blank. That is to say, the method of the invention may still be useful if the electronic mail message includes blank message content, optionally including one or more message attachments. The at least one message attachment may be any suitable file, for example a Microsoft Office file or an Adobe Acrobat file, or any other file type.
The step of sending the electronic mail message from the first user to a server is preferably performed by the first user. This may appear to the first user to be identical to sending the electronic mail message from the first user directly to the second user. For example, the first user may click on a "send" button in the way the first user would in a conventional electronic mail system. Alternatively, this may appear to the first user to be different from sending the electronic mail message from the first user directly to the second user. For example, the first user may click on a different button from a conventional electronic mail system or take another action. Preferably, the first user is able to choose whether to send a particular electronic mail message by the method of the invention or by a conventional method.
The server may be maintained by the first user, by an Internet Service Provider or by another third party. The server may be located at or near the first user or may be remote from the first user. Preferably, the server is a secure web server.
The step of storing the message content and, if the electronic mail message includes at least one message attachment, the message attachment, in the database may comprise storing one or more of: the date of sending from the first user; the time of sending from the first user; the subject of the electronic mail message; the lP address or other details of the first user; and the IP address or other details of the second user.
In a preferred embodiment, the link in the electronic mail notification includes a secure password for connecting to the server. The server may then be able to verify the password against a database. This means that, when the second user clicks on the link in order to connect to the server, the second user does not need to undertake a login procedure, because a password is already provided within the link itself. This avoids the above-mentioned problems of prior art systems which require a login.
Preferably, the electronic mail notification is unencrypted. Preferably, the secure password is a one-time pass key applicable to the specific message content or specific message attachment and to the specific second user. The secure password may have any suitable format, but is preferably encrypted using a secure encryption method.
In one arrangement, the electronic mail notification includes only one link. This single link provides access to the message content and to any message attachments. In an alternative arrangement, the electronic mail notification, the electronic mail notification includes a first link for access to the message content and a second link for access to any message attachments. In that case, the second link allows access to all message attachments. In an alternative arrangement, the electronic mail notification includes a first link for access to the message content and a further link for each respective message attachment. That is to say, there is a separate link for each separate message attachment.
The step of the second user accessing the message content in the database and, if the electronic mail message includes at least one message attachment, the message attachment in the database may comprise: the second user importing the message content and, if the electronic mail message includes at least one message attachment, the message attachment, from the database.
That is to say, the second user can subsequently access the message content and, optionally, the message attachment(s) without having to re-access the server. This is advantageous as it means that future access for the second user to the message content and message attachment(s) does not rely on connectivity between the second user and the server.
The step of recording in the database the access by the second user may comprise recording in the database one or more of: the date of sending from the first user; the time of sending from the first user; the date of accessing by the second user; the time of accessing by the second user; the subject of the electronic mail message; the IP address or other details of the first user; and the IP address or other details of the second user.
The method may further comprise, after the second user has accessed the message content in the database and, if the electronic mail message includes at least one message attachment, the message attachment in the database, the first user receiving an electronic mail message receipt.
The electronic mail message receipt may include one or more of: the date of sending from the first user; the time of sending from the first user; the date of accessing by the second user; the time of accessing by the second user; the subject of the electronic mail message; the IP address or other details of the first user; and the IP address or other details of the second user.
The method may further comprise the step of the first user accessing, via a user interface, information regarding the electronic mail message.
Thus, the first user can ascertain whether the second user has safely received the message content and, if applicable, message attachment(s). If the second user has not received the message content and/or message attachment(s), the first user may opt to re-send the electronic mail message and/or send the message content and, if applicable, message attachment(s) by another communication method. The information may be stored in the database. The information may comprise one or more of: the date of sending from the first user; the time of sending from the first user; whether the second user has accessed the message content; whether the second user has accessed the message attachment(s); the date of accessing by the second user; the time of accessing by the second user; the subject of the electronic mail message; the IP address or other details of the first user; and the IP address or other details of the second user.
The method may further comprise, after the second user has accessed the message content in the database and, if the electronic mail message include at least one message attachment, the message attachment in the database, sending the electronic mail message from the first user directly to the second user.
In that case, the second user receives the original electronic mail message directly from the first user, for example, just like a conventional electronic mail message. This may be simply for ease of access to the electronic mail message for the second user.
According to a second aspect of the invention, there is provided an electronic mail message system comprising: a server for receiving from a first user an electronic mail message for a second user, the electronic mail message including message content and, optionally, at least one message attachment, and for sending to the second user an electronic mail notification relating to the electronic mail message, the electronic mail * 6 notification including at least one link, the link being clickable by the second user to connect to the server; and a database accessible by the server for storing the message content and, if the electronic mail message includes at least one message attachment, the message attachment, wherein the message content and, if the electronic mail message includes at least one message attachment, the message attachment, are accessible by the second user by on clicking of at least one link and wherein access by the second user is recordable in the database.
The electronic mail message system may further comprise a first user computer system for sending the electronic mail message for a second user from the first user to the server.
The electronic mail message system may further comprise a second user computer system for receiving from the server the electronic mail notification relating to the electronic mail message.
Features described in relation to one aspect of the invention may also be applicable to the other aspect of the invention.
Brief Description of the Drawings
Exemplary embodiments of the invention will now be described with reference to the accompanying drawings, of which: Figure 1 is a flow chart of a first embodiment of the invention; Figure 2 is a flow chart of a second embodiment of the invention; and Figure 3 is an illustration of a sender user interface which may be used in conjunction with either the first or the second embodiment of the invention.
Detailed Description of Preferred Embodiments
Figure 1 shows a flow chart of a first embodiment of the invention. In Figure 1, user A 101 is sending a message to user B 103. The nature of the email is such that the user A 101 wants to be certain when the user B 103 has received the email. Outbound communication (user A 101 to user B 103) is shown with dashed arrows, inbound communication (user B 103 to user A 101) is shown with solid arrows and internal communication (internal to either user A 101 or user B 103) is shown with dotted arrows.
At first step 105, user A prepares and sends a normal email message to user B. The layout of the email message is shown at 117. The only difference, from the users perspective, from normal email transmission is that user A clicks on the Send OPS" button 11 7a in this embodiment, rather than the usual "Send" button 11 7b.
At second step 107, the message is logged to a database, the content of the email is removed, and a secure hyperlink is attached. More details of the nature of this step are given below. The message is then transmitted from user A 101's server 119 via the lnternet (or another network) 121 to user B 103's server 123 and ultimately to user B 103.
At third step 109, user B 103 opens the message and clicks on the secure hyperlink to read the full message. The layout of the received email message, including the secure hyperlink is shown at 125.
At this point, at fourth step 111, a message is sent back to user A 101's server indicating the message to user B 103, the date, time, machine name and IP address. This is shown by the inbound arrow. Optionally, a full message including this information may be sent to user A in the form of a read receipt.
At a fifth step 113, user B can view the original message. The layout of the received email message, with the secure hyperlink replaced by the original message content, is shown at 127. Optionally, a full message in the form of a normal email with date stamp, may also be transmitted directly into user B's inbox.
Finally, at sixth step 115, user A can review messages that have been read and have not been read and, if necessary, can resend any documents, for example by facsimile or courier. This may be at the end of the working day, or periodically, whenever user A wishes. The user interface showing this message status is shown schematically at129.
Figure 2 shows a flow chart of a second embodiment of the invention. In Figure 2, user A 201 is sending a message with attachments to user B 203. The nature of the email with attachments is that the user A 201 wants to be certain when the user B 203 has received the email and the attachments. As in Figure 1, outbound communication (user A 201 to user B 203) is shown with dashed arrows, inbound communication (user B 203 to user A 201) is shown with solid arrows and internal communication (internal to either user A 201 or user B 203) is shown with dotted arrows.
At first step 205, user A prepares and sends a normal email message with attachments to user B. The attachments may be any type of document. The layout of the email message and attachments is shown at 217. The only difference, from the user's perspective, from normal email transmission is that user A clicks on the "Send OPS' button 217a in this embodiment, rather than the usual "Send" button 217b.
At second step 207, the message and attachments are logged to a database, the attachments to the email are removed, and a secure hyperlink is attached to the body of the email instead. More details of the nature of this step are given below. The message is then transmitted from user A 201's server 219 via the Internet (or another network) 221 to user B 203's server 223 and ultimately to user B 203.
At third step 209, user B 203 opens the message and clicks on the secure hyperlink(s) to read the message attachment(s). The layout of the received email message, including the secure hyperlinks, is shown at 225.
At this point, at fourth step 211, a message is sent back to user A 201's server indicating the message and attachments to user B 203, the date, time, machine name and IP address. This is shown by the inbound arrow. Optionally, a full message including this information may be sent to user A in the form of a read receipt.
At a fifth step 213, user B can view the original message and its attachments. The layout of the received email message, with the secure hyperlink replaced by the original attachments, is shown at 227. Optionally, a full message in the form of a normal email with attachments and with date stamp, may also be transmitted directly into user B's inbox.
Finally, at sixth step 215, user A can review messages and attachments that have been read/opened and have not been read/opened and, if necessary, can resend any documents, for example by facsimile or courier. This may be at the end of the working day, or periodically, whenever user A wishes. The user interface showing this message status is shown schematically at 229.
Figure 3 is an illustration of one example of a user interface 301 for the sender, User A. in the main window 303, the status of all sent messages can be viewed. For each message, the interface shows the date and time 305, the sender 307, the subject 309 of the email, the recipient 311 and the current message status 313. More details for a particular email message are shown in the pop-up window 315.
In the embodiment shown in Figure 1, only the email itself is replaced by a secure hyperlink. In Figure 2, only the attachments are replaced by a secure hyperlink. Of course, it is possible that both the email content and any attachments are both replaced by a secure hyperlink. This may be a single hyperlink for both the email content and the attachments, or separate hyperlinks for the email content and each attachment.
At the second step 107 of the first embodiment, the email message is logged to a database, the content of the email is removed, and a secure hyperlink is attached.
Similarly, at the second step 207 of the second embodiment, the email message and attachments are logged to a database, the attachments to the email are removed, and a secure hyperlink is attached to the body of the email instead. In both of these embodiments, the secure hyperlink is preferably a URL (Uniform Resource Locator) link.
One of the advantages of the system of the invention is that neither User A nor User B require a login or password in order to be able to use the system. This is because the URL link contains a secure login password. This login password is a one time pass key for the specific email or attachment and the specific recipient and can be used unlimited times to access the email or attachment. In one embodiment, the one time pass key is 32 characters in length. The pass key is preferably encrypted using Triple DES (Data Encryption Standard) although could be encrypted in another suitable manner. The encrypted pass key is then preferably recoded using a Base64 encoding scheme, although could be recoded in another suitable manner. From this, a hash value is generated, preferably an irreversible MD5 (Message-Digest Algorithm 5) hash value.
When user B receives the email and decides to open the email or view the attachments, user B clicks on the secure hyperlink. This hyperlink is preferably encrypted using up to 256bit SSL (Secure Socket Layer) Certificate encryption. The hyperlink connects to user A's server. Once the server has verified the one time pass key against a database, user B is given access to the site using cookie form based authentication. The message and/or attachment download then begins. Various details, for example user B's IP address or other location details, and the time and date of user B's access, are recorded.
This will allow user A to verify that the message and/or attachment has been received and accessed.
When user B accesses the message and/or attachment at the server, it is preferable that the message and/or attachments are downloading directly into user B's system. This means subsequent access by user B to the message and/or attachment does not rely on connectivity between user B and the server.
Thus, the embodiments described provide a method and system for sending and receiving electronic mail, which overcome or mitigate the problems of the prior art arrangements. * 10

Claims (10)

  1. Claims 1. A method for sending electronic mail, the method comprising the steps of: a first user creating an electronic mail message for-a second user, the electronic --mail message including message content and, optionally, at least one message attachment; sending the electronic mail message from the first user to a server; storing the message content and, if the electronic mail message includes at least one message attachment, the message attachment, in a database accessible by the server; sending an electronic mail notification to the second user, the electronic mail notification including at least one link, the link being clickable by the second user to connect to the server; when the second user connects to the server by clicking on the link, allowing the second user access to the message content in the database and, if the electronic mail message includes at least one message attachment, the message attachment in the database, and recording in the database the access by the second user.
  2. 2. A method for receiving electronic mail, the method comprising the steps of: a second user receiving an electronic mail notification relating to an electronic mail message for the second user from a first user, wherein the electronic mail message includes message content and, optionally, at least one message attachment, wherein the electronic mail notification includes at least one link, the link being clickable by the second user to connect to a server, and wherein the server has access to a database having stored therein the message content and, if the electronic mail message includes at least one message attachment, the message attachment the second user connecting to the to the server by clicking on the link, the second user accessing the message content in the database and, if the electronic mail message includes at least one message attachment, the message attachment in the database, wherein the access by the second user is recorded in the database.
  3. 3. A method according to claim 1 or claim 2, wherein the link in the electronic mail notification includes a secure password for connecting to the server.
  4. 4. A method according to any preceding claim., wherein the second user accessing the message content in the database and, if the electronic mail message includes at least one message attachment, the message attachment in the database comprises the second user importing the message content and, if the electronic mail message includes at least one message attachment, the message attachment, from the database.
  5. 5. A method according to any preceding claim, further comprising, after the second user has accessed the message content in the database and, if the electronic mail message include at least one message attachment, the message attachment in the database, the first user receiving an electronic mail message receipt.
  6. 6. A method according to any preceding claim, further comprising the step of the first user accessing, via a user interface, information regarding the electronic mail message.
  7. 7. A method according to any preceding claim, further comprising, after the second user has accessed the message content in the database and, if the electronic mail message include at least one message attachment, the message attachment in the database, sending the electronic mail message from the first user directly to the second user.
  8. 8. An electronic mail message system comprising: a server for receiving from a first user an electronic mail message for a second user, the electronic mail message including message content and, optionally, at least one message attachment, and for sending to the second user an electronic mail notification relating to the electronic mail message, the electronic mail notification including at least one link, the link being clickable by the second user to connect to the server; and a database accessible by the server for storing the message content and, if the electronic mail message includes at least one message attachment, the message attachment, wherein the message content and, if the electronic mail message includes at least one message attachment, the message attachment, are accessible by the second user by on clicking of at least one link and wherein access by the second user is recordable in the database. * 12
  9. 9. An electronic mail message system according to claim 8, further comprising a first user computer system for sending the electronic mail message for a second user from the first user to the server.
  10. 10. An electronic mail message system according to claim 8 or claim 9, further comprising a second user computer system for receiving from the server the electronic mail notification relating to the electronic mail message.
GB1015035.7A 2010-09-09 2010-09-09 Improvements in and relating to data communications Active GB2483488B (en)

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Citations (5)

* Cited by examiner, † Cited by third party
Publication number Priority date Publication date Assignee Title
WO1998058332A1 (en) * 1997-06-17 1998-12-23 Telefonaktiebolaget Lm Ericsson Method and apparatus for accessing and retrieving messages
US20020077846A1 (en) * 2000-12-15 2002-06-20 International Business Machines Corporation Method and system for document or content off-loading to a document repository
WO2003061213A1 (en) * 2002-01-17 2003-07-24 Tae-Joon Kim Method for electronic mail notice and download
US20050267937A1 (en) * 2004-04-19 2005-12-01 Daniels David L Universal recallable, erasable, secure and timed delivery email
US20060224750A1 (en) * 2005-04-01 2006-10-05 Rockliffe Systems Content-based notification and user-transparent pull operation for simulated push transmission of wireless email

Family Cites Families (1)

* Cited by examiner, † Cited by third party
Publication number Priority date Publication date Assignee Title
US20060218234A1 (en) * 2005-03-24 2006-09-28 Li Deng Scheme of sending email to mobile devices

Patent Citations (5)

* Cited by examiner, † Cited by third party
Publication number Priority date Publication date Assignee Title
WO1998058332A1 (en) * 1997-06-17 1998-12-23 Telefonaktiebolaget Lm Ericsson Method and apparatus for accessing and retrieving messages
US20020077846A1 (en) * 2000-12-15 2002-06-20 International Business Machines Corporation Method and system for document or content off-loading to a document repository
WO2003061213A1 (en) * 2002-01-17 2003-07-24 Tae-Joon Kim Method for electronic mail notice and download
US20050267937A1 (en) * 2004-04-19 2005-12-01 Daniels David L Universal recallable, erasable, secure and timed delivery email
US20060224750A1 (en) * 2005-04-01 2006-10-05 Rockliffe Systems Content-based notification and user-transparent pull operation for simulated push transmission of wireless email

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WO2012032300A1 (en) 2012-03-15
GB2483488B (en) 2017-09-13

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