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Why Facebook Swallowed WhatsApp!

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Abstract and Figures

Since 2007 Graz University of Technology has undertaken questionnaires on its first- year students. The main goal of that annual survey basically concentrates on the IT- and Web- competences as long as they are related to e-learning. The long-term results display progresses and trends that need to be taken into account for a university ́s e-learning strategy. The results of this year mainly state a tremendous triumph of the application WhatsApp. It ́s influence on the usage of other applications and it ́s relation to Facebook is specially focused. There is no evidence that using WhatsApp has a negative effect on Facebook. Quite the contrary; WhatsApp is another big push on the steady growing usage of modern media for learning purposes.
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Originally published in: Nagler, W., Ebner, M., Schön, M. (2015). Why Facebook Swallowed WhatsApp!. In Proceedings of World Conference
on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2015. pp. 1383-1392 Chesapeake, VA: AACE.
Why Facebook Swallowed WhatsApp!
Martin Ebner, Walther Nagler
Information Technology Services / Department of Social Learning Graz University of Technology
Graz, Austria
{martin.ebner, walther.nagler}@tugraz.at
Martin Schön
Department of Life Long Learning Graz University of Technology Graz, Austria
martin.schoen@tugraz.at
Abstract: Since 2007 Graz University of Technology has undertaken questionnaires on its first-
year students. The main goal of that annual survey basically concentrates on the IT- and Web-
competences as long as they are related to e-learning. The long-term results display progresses
and trends that need to be taken into account for a university´s e-learning strategy. The results of
this year mainly state a tremendous triumph of the application WhatsApp. It´s influence on the
usage of other applications and it´s relation to Facebook is specially focused. There is no evidence
that using WhatsApp has a negative effect on Facebook. Quite the contrary; WhatsApp is another
big push on the steady growing usage of modern media for learning purposes.
Introduction
Technology is changing in an enormous pace over years now. Just few years ago the first iPhone has been
introduced to the mass market, followed by devices using Google’s mobile platform Android. Afterwards different
tablets occurred driven by heady Apple’s iPad. Today we are close to a broad commercialization of Head Mounted
Displays (Google Glass) or so called smart watches. On the other side, web technologies changed in a similar way:
Beginning with simple information systems and Web 2.0 applications fifteen years ago, up to sophisticated social
networks working with APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), to today’s cloud systems. In the same way
technology enhanced learning evolved from computer based and web based training (Maurer & Scerbakov, 1996)
to e-learning 2.0 (Downes, 2005), to cloud based learning (Fang Hao et al, 2009), ubiquitous (Zhan & Jin, 2005),
and mobile learning (Ally et al, 2014). Nowadays seamless learning (Wong & Looi, 2011) or even smart learning
(Koper, 2014) are on the rise.
Bearing this in mind we have to ask seriously, how is our educational system as such is able to take account of these
developments in an appropriate way? How are educational stakeholders especially teachers and learners are
influenced? What impact has the technological driven changing environment on our daily habits in terms of using
technology and of our communication practice? Prensky (2001) has already broached this issue in 2001 when he
asked, whether today’s students are the people our educational system was designed to teach or not? Different
research publications brought up different perspectives on the digital natives (Prensky, 2001), net generation
(Oblinger & Oblinger, 2005), or generation @ (Opaschowski, 1999), and their great digital literacy. In contrast,
empirical studies (Conole et al, 2006) (Bullen et al, 2008) (Margaryan et al, 2011)) identified the big change based
on digital inventions as a myth. Students seem to be handier with those technologies but this did not affect
significantly their learning behavior as such compared to former generations.
In our research work we concentrate on facts that are collected on yearly paper based surveys amongst university’s
freshmen. Our long-time study aims to answer questions about today’s student’s equipment, their communication
behavior, their e-learning experiences, and usage of digital content as well as different Web 2.0 applications and
social networks. Our goal is to provide a solid basis for further investigations on the necessity of digital literacy for
tomorrow’s society.
Eight Years of Survey
Since 2007 Graz University of Technology (TU Graz) has undertaken questionnaires on its first-year students every
year (Nagler & Ebner, 2009) (Ebner & Nagler, 2010) (Ebner et al, 2011) (Ebner et al, 2012) (Ebner et al, 2013)
(Ebner et al, 2014). The main goal of that annual survey basically concentrates on the IT- and Web 2.0-competences
and beyond as long as they are related to e-learning. Over the years the long-term survey has become a unique trend-
indicator for the adapting IT-habits of Austrian freshmen. The questionnaire is carried out by the department for
Originally published in: Nagler, W., Ebner, M., Schön, M. (2015). Why Facebook Swallowed WhatsApp!. In Proceedings of World Conference
on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2015. pp. 1383-1392 Chesapeake, VA: AACE.
Social Learning (DSL) of TU Graz. DSL is responsible for all e-learning services at TU Graz. On base of the results
of that survey DSL optimizes its e-learning services. The survey takes places during the very first days of the near
academic year. Students are asked to reply on a paper pencil questionnaire. The paper form ensures a high return
quote of nearly 50% of all new students. In 2014 the sample results in n=968; till now the sample sums up to overall
n=5962 (n2007=578, n2008=821, n2009=757, n2010=702, n2011=632, n2012=715, n2013=789, and n2014=968).
Results and Findings of 2014 Survey
Which Trends Can be Seen Towards Technological Equipment?
Figure 1 displays a comparison of the usage of devices by first year’s students at TU Graz between 2007 and 2014.
Due to the fact that since 2007 technology in general has made great developments the selections asked in the survey
could have changed during the years. For instance, the selection “Other mobile” had been split into the leading
brands of smartphones after 2010´s questionnaire. In this year´s survey (2014) we introduced the selection “IPTV”
just to catch a trend that has started in German speaking countries at least since three years1. Although the
availability of TV sets with Internet access depends on multiple conditions such as broadband network deployment,
general TV-market trends, and adequate provider offers we can state a 15% usage so far which is slightly more than
for e-readers. According to IT equipment and Internet connection an analysis based on clustering (Ward´s method
with squared Euclidean distances) results in five groups of students that are mainly characterized by the following
parameters:
Group 1 (35%): using ADSL Internet connection, android mobiles, Windows PC or notebooks
Group 2 (23%): using modem Internet connection, android mobiles, Windows PC or notebooks
Group 3 (18%): using ADSL and/or mobile Internet connection, android mobiles, Windows PC and often
notebooks as well as Linux, and e-readers
Group 4 (16%): using mobile Internet connection, Windows PC and often notebooks, and iPhone
Group 5 (8%): using mobile or ADLS Internet connection, iMac, often iPhone, often iPad
Be sure that there are only little differences among these five groups regarding to Web 2.0 activities in general
which will be discussed later in the paper (compare figure 8).
Figure 1: Comparison of devices used by first year’s students at TU Graz between 2007 and 2014;
The selection “Other mobile” of 2010 includes the selections “M: Symbian” and “M: Windows”;
The selection “IPTV” is new in 2014
1 http://de.statista.com/statistik/suche/?q=internetf%C3%A4hige+TV-Ger%C3%A4te [December 2014]
Originally published in: Nagler, W., Ebner, M., Schön, M. (2015). Why Facebook Swallowed WhatsApp!. In Proceedings of World Conference
on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2015. pp. 1383-1392 Chesapeake, VA: AACE.
Compared to last year´s survey (2013) we can state an ongoing trend in nearly all selections queried. This trend
mainly has started in 2011 and had signalled a change of equipment usage at that time. Till today we can state a
general increase of IT-equipment usage that comes along with a slight tendency towards (comparable) multiple
devices ownership (from four devices in 2011 to four and a half in 2014 on average). We can outline an increase of
smart tables such as iPad (15%) or similar products (13%) at the expense of workstation PCs and laptops. But there
is no significant impact on MAC and iMAC users or on those using Linux systems. On the other hand, the rise of
small smart tablets affected a break on last year´s (2013) upturn of e-reader usage. Further, the general ongoing
trend can be seen at the comparison of mobile phones usage. The classic mobile (media enriched) phone has shrunk
to 5% (from 35% in 2011) and therefore plays no longer a significant role. Due to the fact that Nokia ended their
Symbian operating system in 2013 that system will not be queried in future questionnaires any longer. The mobile
phone market is dominated by Android systems (63%) and Apple´s iPhone (27%). Both can record small
increments. The overall usage of smartphones (selection “Mobile smart all”) exceeds 90%. Note that this selection is
not the result of the summation of the individual smartphone selections but had to be signed by students separately.
The smartphone has become the most owned device during the last three years. Other small mobile devices are on
the rise as well.
Which Trends Can be Seen Towards Communication Behavior?
This year´s (2014) results according to communication behaviour (compare figure 2) show some interesting details.
Bearing in mind the outstanding boom of Facebook in 2010 (Ebner et al, 2011) which had side-effects on the usage
of instant messaging we introduced the selection “WhatsApp” to this year´s (2014) questionnaire. WhatsApp has
been used extremely small in 2013. That fact completely turned. The boost of WhatsApp even outmatches the one of
Facebook. WhatsApp by now attaches equal importance to our freshmen such as e-mail, SMS, and Facebook.
Looking at side-effects WhatsApp may have on other communication possibilities we find out that other instant
messaging services seems not to suffer from WhatsApp but SMS, Skype, and Newsgroups, if any. But, there is no
negative effect of WhatsApp on the usage of Facebook! It is definitely contrary; students that use Facebook in
general are also using WhatsApp more likely than any other alternative communication option. Even more
interesting is the fact that WhatsApp is strongly considered for learning activities which will be discussed later on in
the paper (compare figures 8, 10, and 11). Furthermore there is a small but constant rise of internet video calls.
Twitter still is no competitive opportunity. All in all, due to WhatsApp the often and daily communication (which is
displayed in figure 2) has increased by a fourth component, which is an extreme high growth!
Figure 2: Comparison of communication behaviour of first year’s students at TU Graz between 2007 and 2014
Values similar to answers given for “often” and “daily use; the selection “WhatsApp” is new in 2014
Originally published in: Nagler, W., Ebner, M., Schön, M. (2015). Why Facebook Swallowed WhatsApp!. In Proceedings of World Conference
on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2015. pp. 1383-1392 Chesapeake, VA: AACE.
Which Trends Can be Seen Towards Internet Access at Study Home?
According to trends towards Internet access at study home we can state some fluctuations that correlate with the
long-term average. The trend to mobile access goes on as well as the one for the usage of modem seems to have
established after four years at all. Long-term results are shown in figure 3. Further, there is no change due to the
usage of one access as the single point of connecting with the Internet: Still modems are more likely to be used than
a mobile access for an Internet connection. Effects of the 4th generation of mobile telephony (LTE) that are just
being introduced to larger Austrian cities cannot be seen yet.
Figure 3: Comparison of Internet access at study home of first year’s student at TU Graz between 2007 and 2014
Which Trends Can be Seen Towards the Usage of IT at Secondary School Level?
The main Learning Management System (LMS) in use at secondary school level in Austria still is Moodle.
Nevertheless, other platforms than Moodle cannot be neglected at all (compare figure 5 “rarely use”) but do not play
an important role. Compared to last year´s (2013) results all usages have increased a bit. Although the growth is very
slowly over the years the daily usage of LMS has quadrupled from 3.5% to 13% as well as the “often” usage
nearly doubled (18% to 33%) since 2009 (see figure 4). And for the first time the overall usage tops the “never”
usage of LMS. Besides the usage of LMS, office software as well as a general usage of PC for learning activities
remain the most important methods of e-learning at secondary school level. Even the international trend on the topic
MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) only slowly touches the learning habits of Austrian first-year students
compare figure 5 selection “Online Course”; about 10% use online courses for their learning activities.
Considering the results shown in figures 1, 8, 9, and 10 a much higher usage of IT and LMS at schools can be
expected. Students are well equipment and do use IT for their learning issues, but schools only moderately take care
of that fact. The disparity between IT usage at schools and at home (in the meaning of private usage) can be
obviously seen in figures 6 and 7 too. We asked the students for their main resource they used for learning during
their last secondary school year: either printed schoolbooks or further material. Furthermore we asked of which kind
those further materials primarily were: either analog or digital. Though the analog version dominates the digital
version of a schoolbook or further learning materials, the portion of those using digital further materials is higher
than the one using digital schoolbooks. In addition, those students who used more alternative learning material
instead of schoolbooks also used more digital materials. Summarised we can conclude that at secondary school level
only a little is done to teach and learn with digital materials. The classic printed schoolbook is still the main
resource. When a student more likely uses different materials, those materials tend to be digital.
Originally published in: Nagler, W., Ebner, M., Schön, M. (2015). Why Facebook Swallowed WhatsApp!. In Proceedings of World Conference
on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2015. pp. 1383-1392 Chesapeake, VA: AACE.
Figure 4 left: Overall comparison of usage of e-learning platforms secondary school level for learning efforts of
first year’s students at TU Graz between 2009 and 2014
Figure 5 right: Comparison of usage of e-learning platforms and PC in general at secondary school level for
learning efforts of first year’s students at TU Graz 2014; the selection “Online Course” is new in 2014
Figure 6 left: Comparison of usage of analog schoolbooks and other learning materials of first year’s students at TU
Graz 2014
Figure 7 right: Comparison of usage of analog and digital learning materials besides schoolbooks of first year’s
students at TU Graz 2014
Which Trends Can Be Seen Towards Web 2.0 Activities According to General Usage and for Learning?
In this part of the survey we asked students to indicate their habits and activities towards Web 2.0 applications and
beyond. Be sure that using the term “application” covers all listed selections even if they are no “apps” in the narrow
sense. Students had to estimate their behavior according to general usage and for learning efforts. For each item they
could choose between “no use”, “rarely use”, “often use”, and “daily use”. If they do not know the application asked
they were able to choose the category “unknown”. Compared to the surveys of the past this year (2014) we
optimized the list of applications on base of the results of the last years (see results in figures 8 and 9). Note that
there are a couple of new applications asked such as “WhatsApp”, “OneDrive”, or “iCloud”. Those applications are
marked in the figure with “*”. Further, we pointed out the difference between general and learning use for the
categories “often” and “daily” (see figure 10). Figure 10 includes the adequate results of 2013 as well. Additionally,
we compared the results of “often” and “daily” usage for learning efforts over the last three years (see figure 11).
The percentages values of all figures are not normalized to 100% but show the actual related values. Figure 8
displays answers given for “rarely”, “often”, and “daily” usage, figure 9 shows those for “no use”, “unknown”, and
skipped ones. When we pick out “WhatsApp” as an example to explain how the figures work, we see (figure 8) that
Originally published in: Nagler, W., Ebner, M., Schön, M. (2015). Why Facebook Swallowed WhatsApp!. In Proceedings of World Conference
on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2015. pp. 1383-1392 Chesapeake, VA: AACE.
WhatsApp is most used “daily” for general purposes. It is used for learning purposes nearly by half of all students
“often” or “daily” (46%) which is outstanding for a chiefly communication centred application. Only a few use it
rarely or not in general (18%) (see figure 9). The number of those who do not know WhatsApp is diminishingly
small (0.6%). Because WhatsApp was introduced to the survey this year there is no comparison to other results in
figures 10 and 11.
We can state that for learning efforts only office applications and online dictionaries (above all Wikipedia) are of
more interest to students than for general purpose. A couple of applications are used around the same for learning as
well as generally such as “Forum/Newsgroups”, and “Online personal management”; some are slightly more used in
general such as “Google+”, “Blogs”, “Google Drive”, and “Dropbox”. The highest differences between several
usages we can find for “Gaming” selections, communication related applications (for instance “SMS”, “E-Mail”,
“Skype”, and others), and “YouTube”. Compared to last year (2013) we have an increase (6.5%) of the total “often”
and “daily” usage for learning efforts. But this comparison does not include some of the most important applications
for learning, such as “WhatsApp” (46.6%) and “Online personal management” (54%). So, all in all the increase is
much higher. The comparable increase goes back to “YouTube”, “Online dictionaries” (without Wikipedia), and to
the social communities “Facebook” and “Google+” (see figures 10 and 11).
When we take a closer look at the usage of cloud applications, which had a noteworthy increase last year (2013) due
to Dropbox, we see that still Dropbox is increasing for learning efforts though it stagnates for general usage.
Too “Google Drive” is used a bit more than last year (2013) but with no significance. The applications “OneDrive”
and “iCloud” are new to this year´s survey (2014) and therefore cannot be compared. In contrast to the little
representation of Apple equipment (compare figure 1) the usage of iCloud is remarkable. This means that Apple
users more likely tend to use cloud applications than users regarding to any other operating system in general.
This year´s (2014) PCA (Principle Component Analysis) and HCA (Hierarchical Cluster Analysis) analysis revealed
that rather less used applications such as “Xing, Etherpad, OneDrive”, Twitter, Blogs”, GoogleDrive,
“Internet-Video-Call”, iCloud, Google+” , andInstant-Messenger” are generally used by a specific group and is
therefore not fairly equally spread over all students. Another cluster of students can be seen towards the general as
well as for learning purpose usage of “SMS, “E-Mail, YouTube, Wikipedia, Facebook, and “WhatsApp”; a
third relation can be found towards “Gaming” and “Skype” users. Finally there is a user group focussing on the
usage of office applications, “Dropbox”, “Online News journals”, and “Online personal management”. For learning
efforts “E-Mail” and “WhatsApp” as well as “Dropbox” play an important role in any of the clusters. Those who do
not use WhatsApp also have a little usage of other applications, but those who rarely use “WhatsApp” often like to
use alternative applications (for instance “Skype”, “Internet Video Call”, or similar) for their purposes.
All in all, for learning efforts still “Wikipedia” (84%) and word processing software (“Text”, 72%) is of highest
interest; followed by “Online personal management” (54%) and “E-Mail” (56%). By “Online personal
management” we think about online calendar, task planner, and similar applications. Furthermore “YouTube” is still
gaining importance for learning efforts too (47%). The outstanding triumph of “WhatsApp” (46.56%) even for
learning purposes was not predictable in such dimension. It clearly has become the most attractive social
communication application in only one year (“SMS with 36%, Facebook with 35%, Skypeonly 13%). Also
remarkable is the quite high usage of “Online news journals” (20%) for learning purpose which is somewhat more
than of comparable applications (“Forum/Newsgroup” 12%, “Blogs” 6%). On the other hand, the following
applications play no important role for learning behavior of TU Graz first-year students “Gaming” (online or
offline), social networks apart from “Facebook” (and “Google+”), cloud applications apart from well known,
“Twitter”, and “Etherpad”.
Originally published in: Nagler, W., Ebner, M., Schön, M. (2015). Why Facebook Swallowed WhatsApp!. In Proceedings of World Conference
on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2015. pp. 1383-1392 Chesapeake, VA: AACE.
Figure 8: Usage of Web2.0 and Internet offers of first year’s students at TU Graz in 2014, part 1
Figure 9: No Usage of Web2.0 and Internet offers of first year’s students at TU Graz in 2014, part 2
Originally published in: Nagler, W., Ebner, M., Schön, M. (2015). Why Facebook Swallowed WhatsApp!. In Proceedings of World Conference
on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2015. pp. 1383-1392 Chesapeake, VA: AACE.
Figure 10: Comparison of general and learn use for categories “often and daily” as well as for 2013;
*: Applications that are new in 2014
Figure 11: Comparison of “often and daily learn” use of Web2.0 and Internet offers for the years 2011 to 2014;
*: Applications that are new in 2014
Originally published in: Nagler, W., Ebner, M., Schön, M. (2015). Why Facebook Swallowed WhatsApp!. In Proceedings of World Conference
on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2015. pp. 1383-1392 Chesapeake, VA: AACE.
Why Facebook swallowed WhatsApp
WhatsApp is said to be the fastest growing Internet application ever. Since its foundation in 2009 it has gained a
popularity over 600 million users till October 20142. The outstanding rise of WhatsApp especially during the last
year has provoked social media studies and analysis (Schrittwieser et al, 2012). Besides security aspects the takeover
of WhatsApp by Facebook in February 2014 caused a big noise not only among the online media community.
WhatsApp is often said to expose “social missteps”3. But against many predictions and appeals to use alternative
instant messaging applications WhatsApp won the race. Too, our survey states that WhatsApp has not been snapped
up by Facebook because of business competition; there is no influence of WhatsApp on Facebook to be noticed.
Users do not use either this or that but use both instead. The analysis results a correlation of about Pearson r=0.36,
Kendall r=0.33, and Spearman-Rho r=0.37, one of the highest correlations among the total data of the query. Also
multiple regression calculation indicates that those owning a smartphone also use WhatsApp. Only Linux users
might use WhatsApp less, which is pointed out through a high significance of r=-0.97. The reason why WhatsApp
has become that popular might be clear when we consider the main functionalities of both applications: Facebook is
a social community that is not focused primarily on synchronous communication but on asynchronous one. It is
good for sharing same interests and media, alone or in groups. There is chat functionality but it is not promoted that
much nor has it a smart group chat. WhatsApp does that all instead. It focusses on an easy to use synchronous
communication. To run a group chat is as simple as to share media or your geo-location. To share your entire
personal address book seems to be no problem for users. In the near future also calling (Voice over IP) will be
possible with WhatsApp. Already today it can be used by nearly any mobile operating system. The fact that it works
(almost) free of costs over the Internet is a strong argument against all other comparable opportunities that may be
subject to costs, such as SMS or MMS. But the main reason why Facebook bought that application is that they both
have the same users. It is very probably that users will use both. For general usage we mostly can confirm that. For
learning efforts it is even more on the side of WhatsApp. Figure 13 shows that only in one cluster the usage of
WhatsApp for learning reasons is lower than the one of Facebook (follow the green lined cluster). The number in the
figure´s key of the five clusters represents the number of students belonging to that cluster. So 70% of all students
use WhatsApp more intense for learning than Facebook. Especially students from the study fields “Electrical
Engineering and Audio Engineering”, “Geomatics Engineering” and “Teacher Training” are using WhatsApp more
than others. Even the blue lined cluster with 47 members that has a peak at the “alternative instant messaging
selection has the highest value for WhatsApp usage. Future surveys will show whether WhatsApp will oust other
messaging supplier and similar applications or itself will go down as fast as it has risen.
Figure 13: Cluster analysis about the learning usage resulting in five clusters of different usage
2 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WhatsApp [December 2014]
3 http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/whatsapp-evidence-used-to-divorce-nearly-half-of-italian-adulterers-
9850780.html [December 2014]
Originally published in: Nagler, W., Ebner, M., Schön, M. (2015). Why Facebook Swallowed WhatsApp!. In Proceedings of World Conference
on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2015. pp. 1383-1392 Chesapeake, VA: AACE.
Conclusion
Learning happens and proceeds mainly through communication and interaction (Motschnik & Holzinger, 2002).
This simply statement can strongly be reflected by this research work, due to the fact that mobile communication
tools increase their importance arbitrarily. Our today’s youth learning behavior and beyond is strongly influenced by
them - headed by WhatsApp, followed by Facebook, SMS & Co. Furthermore this study pointed out a number of
interesting facts and figures how technology affects young society and how fast our daily environment is changing.
Nevertheless we are looking a very excited about next year’s results.
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... Young people continue to utilize these socially-focused spaces for a growing range of reasons that go beyond strict social action and interaction, including news consumption [2], media consumption [8], and shopping [1]. Given the growing range of uses, the strict separation of dedicated social platforms from the rest of the Internet appears to be increasingly moot [15]. Aspects that were once considered essential in separating Social Networking Sites (SNSs) from other spaces online [6] are now questioned, with newer platforms removing aspects such as the need for public profiles or a dedicated list of connections [32]. ...
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... Thus "WhatsApp" has become the most used application ever! The reasons for this triumph have been discussed in last year´s survey (Nagler et al, 2015). Even Facebook has turned out to be too clumsy for the needs of the youth. ...
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