In between the bicep-flexing thirst traps, the historic explainers, the surprisingly dead-eyed dances, and the get-ready-with-me movies (ought to I not be revealing what’s on my FYP?), TikTok is flooded with meals and cooking content material. Movies tagged #cookingfood have over 82 billion views. The #restaurantreview tag boasts greater than 1.3 billion views, and turns up an limitless scroll of movies. For some eating places, the app is essential to success, and for influencers turned restaurant critics, it’s develop into a career-maker. However for all of the rigorously shot and edited hacks, suggestions, and recipes which have appeared in your FYP (the customized For You Web page), what number of are you able to say you’ve truly used? TikTok is undoubtedly addicting, however is its cooking, meals, and restaurant content material, truly helpful?

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The app is, after all, removed from good. Recipe content material isn’t at all times user-friendly, and it’s true that quick TikTok movies usually can’t fully seize a restaurant’s vibe. No matter your opinion on the way in which TikTok and meals tradition have collided, the 2 at the moment are inextricably linked. And TikTok is altering greater than the restaurant business; it’s disrupting the way in which folks use the web as an entire. Cloudflare, a content material supply community, reported in late 2021 that TikTok was probably the most visited area of that 12 months, outshining behemoths like Fb, Amazon, Netflix, and even the previous champ, Google. TikTok’s considerably mysterious algorithm is weirdly good at recommending content material that customers wish to see, and now members of Gen Z have turned to the app as their search engine of alternative

Google is paying attention to the development. At a convention final 12 months, Google senior vice chairman Prabhakar Raghavan stated that “In our research, one thing like virtually 40 % of younger folks, after they’re on the lookout for a spot for lunch, they don’t go to Google Maps or Search.”

No matter your opinion on the way in which TikTok and meals tradition have collided, the 2 at the moment are inextricably linked.

However how efficient is TikTok as a search engine in the case of meals and restaurant suggestions? Sure, this app has mined sufficient details about me to grasp what I believe is humorous or bizarre, however what’s it like once I use it as my major manner of determining the place and what to eat? And the way might TikTok’s search capabilities form and alter the panorama of meals and cooking as we all know it? Impressed by my colleagues at Wired, I made a decision to seek out out firsthand. I dedicated to permitting TikTok to find out how I ate for 5 days. 

First, some pointers: Treating TikTok as a search engine, I’d use the app to seek for recipes and restaurant suggestions the identical manner I’d usually search on Google—that’s to say, plugging in search phrases and scrolling till I discover one thing possible. Recipe searches can be for particular dishes versus style (“roast rooster recipe,” not “sheet pan dinners”), and I wished to offer the notorious FYP algorithm an opportunity to foretell my restaurant and recipe wants, so at the very least one meal can be sourced from a time frame scrolling my FYP. 

What follows is a real account of the 5 days I spent flinging myself into the gorgeous and terrifying world of TikTok meals content material. The highs had been excessive, the lows had been typically soul crushing, and the outcomes pushed me to query the way forward for the whole lot of the meals world. 


That is my first actual foray into TikTok food-searching, and I’ll admit I’m nervous. I’m on the mercy of the algorithm—cornered into going to no matter restaurant it deems applicable for me. Lunch just isn’t my favourite meal (not alleged to drink, makes me sleepy, usually there are not any appetizers concerned), however I’m ravenous so I get to it. I sort “East Village lunch” into the search bar, referring to my NY city neighborhood, and I’m proven a grid of 4 movies. 

The primary is a sequence of fast inside pictures of the identical Scandinavian spot the place I’d gotten a espresso simply hours in the past—eerie! The second is a fast video of a neighborhood pizza spot making garlic knots. The balls of dough are drowned in garlic and olive oil and tossed in an infinite metallic bowl. I can inform you from expertise that pizza and garlic knots for lunch will make it medically needed for me to take a direct nap, so it’s a no-go. The third video hits: “Let’s go to brunch for lower than $30,” the voice-over begins brightly over a shot of a sandwich on toasted bread, and a smiling girl strolling down a sunny road. It factors me in direction of a Tex Mex-ish cafe referred to as Mud Spot and recommends the brunch particular (a espresso, mimosa, and entrée for $21.80). The video is over a 12 months previous, however by some means nonetheless ranks near the highest of all outcomes, which wouldn’t be the case on Google the place new content material is prioritized in search outcomes. I’d been to Mud Spot earlier than, however didn’t know they had been working the brunch particular, which appeared like an ideal deal, particularly for the world.

After a ten minute stroll, I arrive to seek out almost each seat stuffed. I stroll to the again room and sit at one among two empty tables. This place is simply as reasonably priced because the video mentions, and the restaurant remains to be—miraculously—providing the identical year-old brunch particular. It’s attainable that I’m simply ravenous, or that the scent of bacon wafting via the room is coloring my notion, however both manner I’m thrilled to dig in. I order a breakfast burrito and a cup of espresso, forgoing the aforementioned mimosa—I’m on the clock, in any case. The burrito is hearty, spicy, and crunchy—every thing I wanted. Cautiously optimistic that TikTok may truly make my life simpler this week, I ask for the test. It involves $26 together with tip, which, because of TikTok, I believe is probably the most reasonably priced meal I’ve eaten in roughly six months. 

I’ve a longstanding reservation for dinner tonight, however as my pal and I attempt to choose a pre-dinner cocktail spot, I whip out my telephone to test TikTok. A “cocktails” search reveals solely recipe movies, and “cocktail bars” doesn’t deliver up something useful both. Don’t get me incorrect, the search left me awash in bar suggestions, however the place Google Maps would have supplied me a large swath of close by bars at each value level, TikTok served me movies of frothing cocktails and elaborate interiors at bars that may little doubt be mobbed. I wasn’t on the lookout for a bar that may be an expertise, I’d hoped to seek out one thing close by that merely served an honest cocktail. Feeling bashful after a number of minutes of considerably frenetic and unfruitful scrolling, I slide my telephone into my pocket, and we set out for a neighborhood dive. 

It was naive to suppose that the TikTok search perform would present me something however the ostentatious cocktail spots that confirmed up—movies that includes unbelievable aesthetics and eye-widening drinks garner probably the most engagement, which pushes them up within the algorithm, in flip encouraging different creators to make related movies. Nobody, together with me, is watching a evaluation of the very unusual bar across the nook. In hindsight, possibly I ought to have searched “dive bar” if I wished a dive bar. Nonetheless, the very unusual dive that we ended up at was the proper spot for a pre-dinner drink.


Day one wasn’t dangerous, so I’m optimistic that day two will even go nicely. I get a late begin right this moment so breakfast and lunch are mixing into one, however my precedence is espresso (and possibly additionally a deal with). My TikTok feed is continually polluted with tiny, costly espresso retailers close to me, so this ought to be a straightforward one. This time, I strive scrolling via my feed till a espresso store close to me pops up—shouldn’t take too lengthy, proper?

I’ve no purpose to consider this particular person has any authority in the case of espresso store superiority.

Within the first video that pops up once I open the app, a girl reenacts a scene at a 90’s film rental store, enjoying each the movie-renter and the shop worker. Swipe. Two women recreate some Spongebob sound results. It’s fairly spectacular, truly. Swipe. “Right here’s how a lot it prices to retire in Sicily,” begins the following video. It’s shortly minimize off as I swipe via. A pair adverts, a number of completely ab-ed guys dancing shirtless, and one grocery-shopping video later, it’s clear that TikTok just isn’t capable of predict that I’m on the lookout for a espresso store. I proceed scrolling TikTok, failing to note, as I slip into the abyss, that I’ve stopped looking for espresso locations. 

An undisclosed period of time later, I snap out of my reverie and search “espresso” however all I discover is recipes. I’m positively not outfitted or prepared to make espresso in my home—particularly not these coffees. They characteristic swirls of caramel and milk frothers, and one is made inside an avocado. “Espresso close to me” leads me to a video taken at a espresso store within the Philippines, and once I lastly plug in “espresso store New York” I’m met with a video of a plant-filled area in Midtown, a neighborhood that’s a half-hour away by subway, and manner too chaotic for this early hour. I scroll to the following video, a day-in-the-life vlog from a man dwelling on a narrowboat in England—am I shirking my journalistic obligations? 

“Listed below are the highest 5 espresso retailers in New York Metropolis, East Village,” the following video begins. It happens to me that I’ve no purpose to consider this particular person has any authority in the case of espresso store superiority, however earlier than that thought can land, the video is off and working and I’m locked in. It alternates between exterior pictures of various espresso spots, and close-up pictures of a espresso from every store in hand. There’s no reasoning as to why these espresso retailers are deemed “greatest,” apart from a short point out of 787 Espresso’s neighborhood low cost. I discover the creator mistakenly refers to All of the King’s Horses as “All of the Kings,” however the video has already looped and began once more. I faucet the display screen to pause it earlier than the entire thing continues to loop time and again. It’s determined. I’m heading to the primary espresso store she mentions: Ninth St. Espresso. 

Minutes later, I’m sipping a chilly brew and munching on a miniature loaf of banana bread at one of many cafe’s sundrenched window seats. The espresso is sweet, however I preserve fascinated by what the creator’s standards might need been in figuring out her prime 5 espresso spots. What number of espresso locations did she go to earlier than deciding? Had been snack or pastry choices factored in? Was there a purpose she skipped Abraço, a neighborhood favourite which was talked about in a number of feedback? Most TikTokers creating best-of content material place themselves as consultants, however within the span of a thirty second video, it’s unattainable to contextualize how certified they is perhaps to make these suggestions, or how a lot time went into analysis. To seek out one of the best espresso locations close to me, I’d usually test a publication like Eater NY, which has a dependable fame and describes why every store has made the checklist. There, I at the very least will be extra positive that whomever is recommending has some quantity of espresso information. 

I’ve been promising my boyfriend I’ll make him a steak dinner for weeks, and right this moment is the day. I flip to my trusty TikTok feed to determine how I’m going to tug off one of the best steaks of our lives. “Steak dinner recipes” turns up quite a lot of useful outcomes. The primary is soundtracked with a Chris Brown track, and is minimize so chaotically and shortly that I can’t comply with the directions. Cooking steps flash on the display screen over close-up cooking movies for seconds at a time, which is a trademark of the TikTok recipe style. The one approach to comply with alongside can be to pause the video at each step to jot down the directions down—an sarcastically analogue approach to make the most of a TikTok recipe. 

The second is a brightly lit video that begins with a spoon pouring browning butter over two scorching filets. Seconds later, tongs decrease the completed steaks onto a reducing board. They’re sliced to disclose an ideal pink. “That is my fast and straightforward stovetop methodology I take advantage of for the proper steaks each time,” the pleasant, rehearsed voice-over says. “They’re steakhouse high quality for a fraction of the value at dwelling,” it continues whereas, as if we’ve traveled again in time, steaks, uncooked once more, are put right into a scorching skillet to develop a pleasant crust. Components, cooking instructions, and even inside temperature pointers are all listed within the caption—I’m flooded with reduction. I believe that is doable! I make a brief checklist of elements and head to the grocery retailer. 

This recipe is tagged “#budgetfriendly” and “#easyrecipe,” however one grocery run and $60 later, I’m unsure I’d deem this significantly simple on my checking account, although New York Metropolis grocery costs are sometimes absurd lately. Nonetheless, this recipe is, briefly, a banger. I adopted the instructions rigorously, salting and patting my steaks dry, searing them for 4 minutes on either side, and at last including butter, rosemary, and garlic to the pan for a couple of minutes of basting. I enable my steaks to relaxation for 10 minutes (an important step, in line with the directions within the caption, although it doesn’t say why), and once I lastly slice into them I’m rewarded with a wonderfully pink medium-rare. They’re nicely salted, and the rosemary and garlic butter baste has infused the steaks with a stress-melting savoriness. Roughly 20 minutes of cooking was all it took to place collectively a easy weeknight meal. 

I’ve by no means cooked a very nice steak, so I used to be leaning on this recipe fairly exhausting. It was useful to have the written directions subsequent to a step-by-step—albeit very fast-paced—video information. I discovered myself bouncing between the video and caption to nervously affirm I used to be doing every thing proper, which I wouldn’t essentially have been capable of do with a conventional written recipe. These visible cues had been the handholding I wanted. The feedback part was additionally useful. Whereas many commenters caught to one thing alongside the traces of “yum!” others chimed in with questions, which the creator or different commenters took upon themselves to reply. Questions on which minimize of meat was greatest (filets), and one of the best pan to make use of (chrome steel) are additional helpful nuggets of data. You win this spherical, TikTok. 


I’m speeding to get to the workplace on time this morning, which implies I by accident skip breakfast. Lunch on the workplace presents a problem: What reasonable choices might TikTok supply for lunch round decrease Manhattan? I open up the app hoping for one of the best—possibly I’ll be met with a video concerning the close by Eataly and be pressured to go there for an expensive two-and-a-half-hour lunch. I’m simply doing my job! 

TikTok collects the placement and GPS knowledge of its customers, so it looks as if a “close to me” search can be efficient, however once I search “lunch close to me” outcomes present eating places as far-off as Australia. Typing “Lunch close to” prompts the app to counsel touristy places like “The Met” or “Central Park” that aren’t almost inside strolling distance of my workplace. I sort in “lunch close to World Commerce Heart,” on the lookout for spots close to the Condé Nast workplaces. A video from final summer time options somebody consuming at a road truthful that was apparently within the space, one other options One Dine, the restaurant on the prime of One World Commerce. Sadly, it isn’t open but. I don’t see any viable choices right here, and, defeated and hungry, I face the inevitability of lunch on the Condé cafeteria.  

After work, I head to my health club in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood. Afterward, exhausted from an extended day and a exercise, I sit almost catatonic within the foyer questioning how I would discover a low-cost, simple dinner. A burrito looks as if it’s going to match the invoice, however the first few movies underneath the “Williamsburg burrito” search level me towards a restaurant referred to as Tremendous Burrito, which I’m not loopy about—it hasn’t been as spicy as I’d’ve appreciated on earlier visits. I can consider about three different burrito spots that may be shut, good, and low-cost, however they’re conspicuously absent from my TikTok feed. My starvation rising, I strive “Williamsburg dumplings,” hoping I’ll be pointed in direction of an unimaginable new spot that may blow my thoughts. 

The hassle concerned in looking out, scrolling, and re-searching TikTok for meals suggestions is greater than I can bear.

Outcomes are dominated by two eating places. Antidote, which serves Sichuan-style meals, pops up within the first a number of movies. One video begins with a sluggish pan round Antidote’s eating room, lit by a skylight, with stylish concrete partitions and several other dangling crops hanging from the ceiling. A shot of a neon signal studying “Antidote,” extra potted crops, a trio of brightly coloured cocktails which the voice-over praises as “so fairly.” It goes on to advocate the wontons, soup dumplings, pork stomach, fish and chili oil, and string beans whereas biking between two-second overhead pictures with a sluggish zoom of every dish. The fragile trio of soup dumplings and the pictures of glistening pork stomach look good, but it surely looks as if a dine-in spot, and the meals appears to be like delicate sufficient that takeout containers and my lengthy journey dwelling may dim its shine considerably. 

Vanessa’s Dumplings, one among New York Metropolis’s most well-known dumpling retailers, additionally makes a number of appearances within the search outcomes. One video begins with a fast overhead shot of eight dumplings coated in scallions, and nestled right into a round white takeout container. “Okay, let’s dive into the spicy wontons and the pork and chive dumplings from Vannessa’s Dumplings in Williamsburg,” says the creator. It’s clear from the video’s background that the video was shot at dwelling—I’m guessing supply. I swipe out of the video as she’s elevating a chunk of dumpling wrapper as much as the digicam together with her chopsticks. The following video is for Vanessa’s as nicely—set to a Calvin Harris track, it begins with a sluggish pan of the outside of the eating places, adopted by a number of pictures in takeout containers. Neither video may be very detailed about menu gadgets or a lot different restaurant info, however all of the very important information is there: dumplings, test, takeout, test.  

I frequented Vanessa’s all through school, however hoped that TikTok might need led me someplace a bit much less anticipated. As a search engine, it was feeling unwieldy and unfocused. Was I utilizing the incorrect search phrases? Was there another issue I used to be lacking? Feeling annoyed, I mentally shake my fist on the sky, cursing the tweens that made this app what it’s. “TikTok Meals Week is ruining my life,” I textual content my boyfriend. After a number of minutes of weighing my choices, paralyzed by starvation, I set off for Vanessa’s.

The dumplings are serviceable. The skinny wrappers of the seared pork dumplings crackle on first chew and supply a satisfying chew. Hen and basil dumplings have a chew of anise, and the fluffy pork buns tear aside to disclose a savory filling. Not dangerous, however not thrilling. What I’m studying from this reasonably masochistic experiment is that the trouble concerned in looking out, scrolling, and re-searching TikTok for meals suggestions is greater than I can bear, and doesn’t usually lead me to anyplace thrilling or new. Pissed off, I inform myself that I’ll minimize down my TikTok meals to 1 per day for the remainder of the week. 


The week is almost completed and I’m not the spring rooster I used to be on Monday. Nonetheless, I’m dedicated to ending sturdy, and tonight I will discover a new recipe on TikTok to make for dinner. I determine to eschew the search characteristic right this moment—I’ll scroll via my feed on the hunt for recipes as a substitute. Who is aware of? Perhaps this shall be a extra fruitful methodology. 

I scroll, and I scroll, and spend a bit extra time scrolling. There are a number of of these break up display screen movies that present a Household Man clip on one facet, and a clip of somebody enjoying subway surfer on the opposite. They’re meant to supply a double dose of eye-catching stimulation, and I hate to confess that my mind is extremely susceptible to them. I catch myself waiting for twenty seconds or so earlier than indignantly scrolling previous, attempting to coach these movies out of my algorithm. 

I’m unsure I can topic my Ashkenazi abdomen to that a lot vegan cream cheese. 

Finally I swipe onto a recipe video. It’s a tackle loubia, a Moroccan white bean dish, besides this one is made right into a pie with layers of crackly phyllo dough on prime. I watch as  the creator takes a chew of his completed loubia, rolling his eyes in pleasure as golden daylight streams in from some off-camera window. 

“This model of loubia, a Moroccan white bean stew, is for the working women who come dwelling feeling ran via,” the voice-over says. That’s me! I’m working women who come dwelling feeling ran via! The video is 43 seconds of snappy cuts exhibiting chopping, stirring, grating, and sauteing, but it surely’s tagged #easyveganmeals, so I’ve hope that will probably be possible. I search for the recipe within the caption (no) or pinned within the feedback (additionally no) however I lastly discover it by following the hyperlink within the creator’s bio. The estimated prep time is between one and two hours, and I depend a whopping 19 (!!!) elements listed. This recipe is not for the working women who come dwelling feeling ran via. I’m lacking elements like maitake mushrooms, phyllo dough, tomato paste, and contemporary cilantro, parsley, and tarragon, and I actually should not have the wherewithal to get via a 19 ingredient recipe. Not tonight. Probably not ever. 

Clicking via the #easyveganmeals brings me first to a video of a three-ingredient vegan pasta—tomato sauce, a complete factor of vegan cream cheese, and cooked pasta—that doesn’t look superb. Subsequent, I’m fed a wholesome vegan meal-prep lunch video for buffalo chickpea wraps which doesn’t give any measurements. I reluctantly faucet the hyperlink in bio hoping to discover a simple recipe, solely to wade via hyperlinks for meal plans, the cookbook the creator was promoting, and meal planning app obtain hyperlinks. Movies exhibiting rice paper dumplings, coconut curries, and a confit tomato dish are subsequent. Sadly, the three ingredient pasta is the one one I really feel certified to make, however I’m unsure I can topic my Ashkenazi abdomen to that a lot vegan cream cheese. 

All the content material was superbly shot, the voice-overs had been peppy and fascinating, the dishes appeared scrumptious, and there have been even one or two suggestions—blooming spices, as an example—however finally the recipes had been a flop for me. The short cuts of the loubia pie video bely the complexity of the particular dish; it felt like the main target of most cooking movies was on engagement somewhat than precise instruction. I actually can’t fault creators, who’re solely attempting to create profitable content material, but it surely speaks to the way in which recipe movies work on TikTok versus different recipe sources—the New York Instances Cooking web site, or the Epicurious app, as an example, which, in my unbiased opinion, is superbly designed and effortlessly useful… should you had been questioning. There, I’m used to fast filters and classes—recipes deemed fast and straightforward are literally fast and straightforward, as a result of there can be no purpose to bait and change the person. Realizing that extra scrolling wouldn’t deliver me nearer to an precise dinner, I give up and set out for my favourite Indian restaurant a pair blocks away. 


I’m going huge and going dwelling right this moment. I’m looking out TikTok for “greatest NYC restaurant,” and grabbing a reservation on the first place that has open tables. I don’t care the place it’s! I don’t care what’s on the menu! The primary few movies that seem have titles like “My High 10 NYC Eating places” and have eating places like Carbone, The Polo Bar, and Misi—infamously tough reservations to get in one of the best of circumstances, not to mention on the identical day. I take it again, I can’t be consuming on the first restaurant I discover on my feed. 

Extra scrolling leads me to a couple rooftop bar suggestions, and a pair sushi spots which can be booked up, till I lastly land on a video recommending a restaurant I’ve by no means heard of in Hudson Yards. “In the event you’re in NYC you’ll want to try this superb restaurant!” reads the app’s considerably clunky text-to-speech narration voice. “It’s in Hudson Yards, and also you get gorgeous views of the Vessel,” it continues, referring to the 150-foot piece of public artwork that’s vaguely formed like an infinite rotating shawarma. Queensyard miraculously has tables out there, and after a number of clicks on Resy, my destiny is sealed. 

The very first thing to notice is that Queensyard is positioned inside The Outlets at Hudson Yards—that’s to say, it’s in a mall. However upon coming into, the restaurant feels undoubtedly luxe. Massive candles on the steps resulting in the bar give every thing a heat glow, and limitless potted fiddle leaf fig timber, a notable staple of the TikTok aesthetic, make the area really feel lush and luxuriant. I pay attention to the {couples} eating collectively, the just-a-bit-too-loud oontz oontz music enjoying over the audio system, and, as promised, the unobstructed view of The Vessel. 

Utilizing TikTok to seek for eating places felt like driving a hype machine rollercoaster.

The restaurant payments itself as New American—no matter which means—and the menu options dishes like octopus with truffled scallion kimchi, and housemade bread with Marmite butter. My pal and I begin with the aforementioned bread and Marmite butter which doesn’t actually have a lot of the malty, Marmite-y taste the unfold normally holds. We mosey via a good truffle Caesar salad, a well-cooked, delightfully citrusy branzino, and an awesome squid ink-heavy linguine that’s made gloopy by a leek cream sauce. 

We go away full, however I’d describe our meal, in TikTok parlance, as “mid.” Positive, the restaurant was fairly in a frictionless, blandly luxurious manner, and the meals tasted fantastic—truffles, pasta, and heat bread will just about at all times style good—however I wouldn’t describe the restaurant as “unimaginable,” the way in which the narrator within the TikTok video had gushed. 

Utilizing TikTok to seek for eating places felt like driving a hype machine rollercoaster. Each restaurant was the greatest restaurant, and every video noticed the creator straining to show why the restaurant they had been that includes was significantly particular. Take a look at this bar’s secret entrance! Take a look at this cheese pull! Take a look at this cocktail overflowing with vapor from dry ice! If there’s one factor that drives engagement for TikTok’s restaurant content material, it is a gimmick. 

Recipes had been one other story fully. Some, like the academic steak video, felt extremely person targeted; directions had been proper there so I didn’t should exit the app, and I might comply with alongside, referring again to the video or the written directions as usually as I wished. Others, just like the movies I discovered within the #easyveganmeals rabbit gap felt virtually intentionally deceptive. They led me to link-in-bios the place creators had been promoting cookbooks, meal plans, and apps. After I did finally discover the written out recipes, they weren’t as simple as I’d been promised. Whereas conventional recipe apps and archives are usually fairly good at serving to you determine what to cook dinner by precisely categorizing recipes by style, TikTok’s recipe content material labored greatest for me once I already knew what I wished, and will seek for particular recipes. 

“TikTok Meals Week,” as I’d been calling this experiment to anybody who would pay attention, had come to an in depth, and I’d realized rather a lot about each myself and the app in query. I realized, as an example, that useful TikTok restaurant suggestions solely come from very particular searches. I additionally realized that spontaneously planning meals on the fly makes me extremely wired. I bought new perception into quite a lot of totally different cooking methods and recipes, and I realized that my pantry is woefully understocked to cook dinner most of them. 

Most of all, although, I realized that though it could collect worryingly detailed info from my scrolling habits, TikTok is rather a lot like each romantic associate I’ve had: It can not learn my thoughts and magically guess precisely what I wish to eat.

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