Acquia Lightning speeds Drupal development with new capabilities

Acquia today released the latest version of Acquia Lightning, a flexible Drupal 8 distribution thousands of organizations are using to launch new Drupal sites and projects quickly. Acquia Lightning offers new capabilities for developers, site builders, site managers, and marketers to build sites faster and deliver richer digital experiences.

As companies continue to elevate the role of content delivery across every channel, teams face pressure to build sites that are increasingly demanding. They have turned to open source distributions such as Acquia Lightning to make building enterprise-ready, feature-rich sites faster and maintaining them easier. The latest version aligns Acquia Lightning with the recently released Drupal 8.7.

Acquia partner Igility Solutions turned to Acquia Lightning to incorporate advanced Drupal capabilities more quickly for the sites it builds for customers. “Because Acquia Lightning is aligned to Drupal core’s roadmap, using it provides developers the best long-term opportunity  to be more efficient when building and maintaining Drupal projects,” said Brad Gronek, CEO, Igility Solutions. “We don’t have to reinvent the wheel when using Acquia Lightning; module selection, integration and testing is all handled by the Acquia Lightning team. That means we can focus on experience innovation and spend less of our time and our customers’ money on maintenance and development.”

Acquia Lightning includes the following new capabilities:

  • Acquia Lightning takes advantage of the industry’s only fully accessible Layout Builder in Drupal 8.7, and also provides templates not available in Drupal core that editors can choose when creating or editing content. Layout Builder replaces the Panels and Panelizer modules previously available in Acquia Lightning.
  • Additional out-of-the-box Layout Builder components, on top of what Drupal core delivers, supporting the use of Google Maps, slideshows, banners and other rich media in layouts.
  • Enhanced media management, including a carousel widget that can be embedded on pages and a built-in tool to crop images.
  • A preview of a new, improved, and accessible administrative interface built on a design system consisting of visual and behavioral components and patterns, combined into user-friendly user interfaces.
  • Acquia Lightning has adopted Drupal’s support for JSON:API, delivering out-of-the-box support for building decoupled or headless applications using a common standard.

“By bringing together modules and capabilities enterprise applications demand most, Acquia Lightning speeds up Drupal development time by 30 percent or more and helps organizations get to market faster and maintain Drupal sites more easily, while delivering more engaging experiences,” said Dries Buytaert, Drupal creator and project lead and Acquia co-founder and CTO.  “Acquia Lightning is the best place to start a new Drupal 8 project, particularly on Acquia Cloud.”

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Google unveils new enterprise edition of the Google Glass

Google is not giving up on its augmented reality wearable device: the Google Glass. Despite the dwindling interest in the device over the last couple of years, Google is releasing a new enterprise edition in the hopes of gaining back some momentum.

The Google Glass Enterprise Edition 2 comes with an improved platform, a powerful CPU, enhanced performance, and a new price point.

“Glass Enterprise Edition 2 helps businesses further improve the efficiency of their employees. As our customers have adopted Glass, we’ve received valuable feedback that directly informed the improvements in Glass Enterprise Edition 2,” Jay Kothari, project lead for the Google Glass, wrote in a post.

According to Kothari, the device has been used in a variety of industries to help provide hands-free access to tools and information. “Workers can use Glass to access checklists, view instructions or send inspection photos or videos, and our enterprise customers have reported faster production times, improved quality, and reduced costs after using Glass,” Kothari wrote.  

Features include the Qualcomm Snapdragon XR1 platform, a new artificial intelligence engine, updated camera and quality, and ability to develop and deploy easily with Android support. “It’s built on Android, making it easier for customers to integrate the services and APIs (application programming interfaces) they already use. And in order to support scaled deployments, Glass Enterprise Edition 2 now supports Android Enterprise Mobile Device Management,” Kothari explained.

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SD Times news digest: Postman 7.1, Auth0 secures $103 million, and an update on the Stack Overflow breach

API development environment provider Postman has announced Postman 7.1, which enables developers to create APIs directly within the app.

The release features new API, define, develop, test and observe tabs, API elements, extended schema support, and versioning and version tagging. The new versioning feature allows developers to maintain multiple versions of an API simultaneously, Postman explained.

“With our latest release, we’re making APIs front and center. Now you can link all of your API elements (test, environments, mocks, documentation, and monitors) to an overarching API and view them all in one place. Your API itself is your single, central source of truth,” said Abhinav Asthana, the CEO and founder of Postman.

Auth0 secures funding for its identity as a service 
Auth0, provider of Identity-as-a-service (IDaaS), secured $103 million in Series E funding, bringing the total funding of the company to more than $210 million. The Series E funding was led by Sapphire Ventures.

Auth0 provides an identity solution that seamlessly authenticates large volumes of logins on web, IoT and internal applications.

“Businesses cannot afford a data breach, and this investment is a key indicator that identity management is an industry worth investing in,” said Eugenio Pace, the CEO and co-founder of Auth0.

Stack Overflow breach update
Stack Overflow experienced a breach between May 5-11 and an ongoing investigation found that the hacker gained privileged web requests that affected about 250 public network users, according to the company.

The breach was discovered when the intruder granted themselves a privileged access on production, upon which the company terminated the unauthorized access and conducted an audit of all logs and databases that it maintains.  

Stack Overflow stated that the affected users will be notified.

NVIDIA releases new reinforcement learning research
Researchers at NVIDIA’s newly opened robotics research lab in Seattle presented a new proof of concept reinforcement learning approach that aims to enhance how robots trained in simulation will perform in the real world.

Using a cluster of 64 NVIDIA Tesla V100 GPUs, with the cuDNN-accelerated TensorFlow deep learning framework, the researchers trained a robot to perform two tasks: placing a peg in a hole and opening a drawer.

“In robotics, you generally want to train things in simulation because you can cover a wide spectrum of scenarios that are difficult to get data for in the real world,” said Ankur Handa, one of the lead researchers on the project. “The idea behind this work is to train the robot to do something in the simulator that would be tedious, and time-consuming in real life.”

MuleSoft releases updated Anypoint Platform with API community manager
Mulesoft announced the next major release of Anypoint Platform, which adds Anypoint API Community Manager and other new features.

API Community Manager enables developers to build and customize API portals using out-of-the-box templates; auto-populate interactive API documentation from Anypoint Exchange; measure ecosystem engagement and track API program business metrics; and foster developer engagement and collaboration.

MuleSoft is also by extending MuleSoft Catalyst with Catalyst Mobilize, a packaged set of proven best practices and methodologies, according to the company.

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Professional and citizen developers unite!

According to Forrester Research, 47 percent of companies are behind in their digital transformation efforts because they’re unable to implement digital transformation strategies effectively. Digital innovators steal market share from incumbents by creating disruptive business models and superior customer experiences.

The ability to deliver applications for employees, partners and customers quickly and at scale is core to every digital transformation strategy. Organizations need to optimize application development productivity by empowering professional developers and citizen developers simultaneously.

Scaling application development across the enterprise
Not all business applications require professional software development talent. However, medium to large enterprises need assurances that all internal and customer-facing apps meet certain pre-defined criteria whether those businesses are regulated or not.

Developers can help empower citizen developers by building reusable components that contain built-in guardrails and governance. That way, business professionals can easily construct apps that meet departmental needs and adhere to architectural and governance requirements such as security access control, API contracts, regulatory compliance and service-level agreements.

“Citizen developers should be able to do more than create simple forms-based applications or dashboards. They should be able to create powerful omni-channel applications like professional developers without breaking other things or introducing security vulnerabilities,” said Carlos Carvajal, chief marketing officer at Kony.

Professional developers can use low-code tools to improve their own productivity so they can spend more time innovating. “Organizations have a backlog of hundreds of applications. If you enable less technical resources, i.e. citizen developers, to build business applications then your architects and developers can focus on more sophisticated projects that have complex enterprise-grade requirements,” said Carvajal.

To meet digital transformation goals at enterprise scale, developers need a low-code solution like Kony Quantum that can accelerate development, scale easily, enable them to innovate freely without constraints and deliver better experiences.

  • Accelerate development. Low-code solutions help developers meet time-to-market mandates. All low-code tools do this by definition, however, not all of them scale well or provide developers the flexibility required to meet advanced requirements.
  • Scale easily. Scalability has different definitions. A dependable low-code solution can scale in whatever manner a developer requires.”Scalability could mean the number of users, volume of data, types of applications – e.g., employee and consumer facing, and more,” said Carvajal. “From a development productivity standpoint, you should also be able to use the exact same low-code solution to build or maintain mission-critical internal apps as well as customer-facing apps. That’s what we mean by ‘low code without limits.’ Your solution should be able to evolve to meet any needs in the future for any audience.”
  • Innovate freely without constraints. Digital technology is evolving rapidly, which a low-code solution should anticipate. Using Kony Quantum, developers can build and deploy apps that feature modern functionality such as a conversational UI with integrated chatbots, 3D way-finding, augmented reality and wearable apps that sync with a smartphone. “Developers should be able to use their favorite tools, import the libraries they need and work the way they want to work,” said Carvajal. “They should also be able to adopt the latest technologies without worrying about whether low-code tooling is going to constrain them.”
  • Experience better. Customer experience is the primary differentiating factor in the Digital Age. As a result, customer experiences should inform app design rather than the other way around. Your low-code solution should help you build that experience without limitations on the UI side and be able to orchestrate and aggregate data in a way that’s intuitive and fast.

For more information visit


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Shifting left for better security? It’s just as important to shift right too

There’s been a lot of talk lately in security and development circles about the need to shift left in the software development lifecycle—and rightly so. By bringing security into the picture from the beginning, you can catch weak designs and bugs earlier, when they’re cheaper and easier to fix. So far, so good. But does this mean you should forget about the right side of the lifecycle, when you have a production environment where applications actually get used by customers and compromised by attackers? The reality is, you can’t just “shift” security in one direction. To protect their applications and users, forward-thinking companies need to modernize security programs to both get involved in architecture and development earlier, as well as gain better visibility and defense capabilities for applications and APIs in production.

What have we learned from DevOps?
First and foremost, for development teams going through a journey to DevOps, “shifting right” is hardly a novel idea. We’ve already seen a similar shift-left, shift-right pattern in performance and testing. Initially, testing (including general quality and performance) followed only after applications had been almost fully written. When this proved inefficient, it was shifted earlier in the lifecycle to support continuous integration. Eventually, organizations realized the value of also shifting quality coverage right and giving developers visibility into the way code and services behaved live. They began using application performance management (APM) tools such as Datadog, App Dynamics, and New Relic to provide rapid feedback from production directly to development and DevOps teams. This approach exemplified what became one of the core tenets of DevOps: bringing previously siloed capabilities (in this case visibility into the performance of an application in production) directly back to the full teams so they could iterate faster.

The same principle applies in security and can be used to successfully modernize security programs. Just as operational visibility helps development teams discover and fix performance and quality problems faster; if you apply these same lessons to security, you can achieve similar benefits.

What shifting right can accomplish
As DevOps has shown, bringing previously siloed capabilities close to the development team is a great way to foster agility and accelerate modernization. Security has been late to this transformation, but on the plus side, this means that it can make use of lessons that were painfully learned by other facets of engineering during their own journeys. For example, in the past, performance was handled entirely by separate teams with their own dedicated tooling and jargon. The rise of DevOps shifted this siloed approach and brought tooling to the development teams so they could better manage the performance of their applications and services, allowing them to discover and fix issues whenever they arose.

DevSecOps applies this same lesson to security by providing visibility into how applications are attacked and abused. With this transparency,  teams can discover and fix security issues more quickly when they arise.

Obviously, unifying security with DevOps is a journey, requiring developers, operations engineers, and security professionals to learn how to instrument applications for application-specific misuse and abuse. Beyond the visibility and protection a DevSecOps approach makes possible, it also enables organizations to share security responsibility more broadly—a step most developers welcome. In fact, a recently published DevSecOps Community Survey found that developers continue to believe security is important, but nearly half of them said they didn’t have enough time to focus on it. At a time when one in three successful breaches target web apps, giving engineering teams a practical way to contribute to the security of their applications can have a transformative impact.

Finding the right place for security in the development lifecycle
Shifting left has been a necessary and beneficial change for security teams, helping broaden their perspective beyond a narrow focus on penetration testing and static/dynamic analysis performed only after applications were almost entirely written. But it’s important to recognize that testing earlier is just one piece of security modernization, and adapting the other side of the lifecycle (“shifting right”) is just as critical. It’s time for security professionals to both “shift left” by moving testing earlier in the development cycle, and “shift right” by obtaining visibility into how applications and APIs are attacked and abused in production. Only if you modernize your approach to security across the full spectrum of application development, will you be able to break down traditional silos and bring security capabilities directly to the people managing development and DevOps teams as well as security teams.


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SD Times news digest: Sony and Microsoft collaborate on AI and gaming, Visual Studio Code 1.34, and PDFTron secures $71 million

Sony and Microsoft are teaming up to collaborate on developing semiconductors and AI as well as new cloud-based solutions for gaming and content-streaming on Azure.

According to the companies, Sony will integrate its image sensors into Microsoft’s Azure AI technology across cloud and edge, and will also blend Sony’s conductors into Microsoft cloud technology. The companies will also explore the integration of Microsoft’s AI platform and tools into Sony consumer products.

“I hope that in the areas of semiconductors and AI, leveraging each company’s cutting-edge technology in a mutually complementary way will lead to the creation of new value for society,” said Kenichiro Yoshida, the president and CEO of Sony.

Visual Studio Code 1.34 release adds remote development extensions
Version 1.34 of Visual Studio Code has been released with remote development extensions that allow developers to work with VS Code over SSH on a remote machine or VM, in Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL), or inside a Docker container.

VS Code is now more stable because it optimistically caches Codelens locations whereas before, Codelens lines would shift slightly when switching between editors, the team explained. The extensions also offer new tasks such as automatically revealing the problems panel and terminating all tasks.

The full list of new features and bug fixes can be viewed here.

Stack Overflow breached
Stack Overflow, the Q&A site for programming and development-related topics, stated that hackers breached the company’s network over the weekend.

The company confirmed that some level of production access was gained on May 11 and they have not yet found if customer and user security has been compromised. The investigation is ongoing, according to the company.

PDFTron secures $71 million investment
PDFTron, provider of document processing tools for developers, secured a $71 million investment led by Silversmith Capital Partners.

The company’s main product, PDFTron SDK, enables users to embed PDF and document functionality within their software applications and integrates across all major web, desktop and mobile platforms.

“This investment will allow PDFTron to continue delivering market-leading solutions, while doubling down on our commitment to long-term customer success and satisfaction,” Catherine Andersz, the co-founder and CEO of PDFTron.

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SD Times Open-Source Project of the Week: SPTAG

Microsoft wants to take traditional search engines to the next level with the open sourcing of SPTAG or Space Partition Tree and Graph.

According to the company, search engines and even intelligent assistants are lacking the ability to understand queries because they are focused on keyword search algorithms. “Keyword search algorithms just fail when people ask a question or take a picture and ask the search engine, ‘What is this?’” Rangan Majumder, group program manager on Microsoft’s Bing search and AI team, said in a blog post.

SPTAG uses artificial intelligence to make web searching feel more natural to the user. Microsoft explained SPTAG is an algorithm that uses deep learning models to search through vectors and deliver relevant results faster. This differs from keyword search because it enables users to search by concept. Microsoft has been using this technology in its Bing search engine in order to better understand users’ search intents.

“Bing processes billions of documents every day, and the idea now is that we can represent these entries as vectors and search through this giant index of 100 billion-plus vectors to find the most related results in 5 milliseconds,” said Jeffrey Zhu, program manager on Microsoft’s Bing team.

Other use cases for SPTAG include ability to identify languages from audio snippets and the ability to provide a more accurate search results from images.

The open-source project will also provide user examples and a video on how to use SPTAG.


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Open-source project creates wizard-based experience for web developers

A new open-source project is making it easier for web developers to create applications by providing a step-by-step process as they develop. Microsoft announced the Microsoft Web Template Studio (WebTS), which is designed to be a cross-platform extension of Visual Studio Code.

The open-source project provides a wizard-based experience that guides developers through web app creation, generates code, and provide step-by-step instructions. According to the company, WebTS can generate code for front-end and back-end frameworks, pages and cloud services.

“Our philosophy is to help bootstrap your app with what you need but not do so much that you’re deleting code and breaking stuff. We also strive to introduce best patterns and practices,” Clint Rutkas, senior technical product manager for the Windows developer team, wrote in a blog post.

The project is still in early development and supports one full-stack app path with React and Node.js, Microsoft explained. Support for Angular and Vue are currently in the works.

Features include:

  • Project type: The type of app you are building. The project currently only supports fullstack at the moment.
  • Frameworks: Are you using front-end or back-end? Support includes React.js for frontend and Node.js for backend.
  • App pages: App page templates to easily add common UI pages. Templates include: blank page, common layouts and pages with common patterns.
  • Cloud services: Support includes Azure Cosmos DB and Azure Functions.

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SD Times news digest: Developing Android Apps using Kotlin, Pluralsight’s Q&A feature, and Algorthimia’s new enterprise AI funding

Google is partnering with Udacity to create Developing Android Apps with Kotlin, a free online course designed to teach developers how to build Android applications using Android Jetpack and the programming language Kotlin.

It covers the why and how of Android Jetpack components such as Room for databases, Work Manager for background processing and the Navigation component all while using popular community libraries to simplify common tasks.

Developing Android Apps with Kotlin is intended for people who have programming experience and are comfortable with Kotlin basics, according to the company.  

Pluralsight announces Q&A feature
Pluralsight, an enterprise technology skills platform, unveiled a Slack-integrated Q&A feature that lets team members connect with experts within their company to get the answers they need.

“Giving developers the power to ask questions and quickly receive well-informed answers, within the context of their own organisation, is crucial for working as productively as possible and building strong skill sets,” said Nate Walkingshaw, the chief experience officer at Pluralsight.

All questions and answers are kept within an organization and are saved for other team members who might want the answer to that same question.

Algorthimia raises $25 million for enterprise AI adoption
Algorithmia, provider of an AI layer platform that automates DevOps for ML applications, raised $25 million in a Series B round of funding. The money will go toward expanding its AI automation platform, according to the company.

Norwest Venture Partners led the Series B with participation from Madrona, Gradient Ventures, Work-Bench, Osage University Partners and Rakuten Ventures.

“Machine learning requires a very different infrastructure and lifecycle than traditional software,” said Diego Oppenheimer, CEO of Algorithmia. “This investment allows us to continue to be laser-focused empowering them to deploy and iterate their models at full speed.”

According to the company, its AI layer greatly reduces the time data scientists need to spend on manually managing ML models by automating the ML DevOps lifecycle and allowing data scientists and ML teams to collaborate and manage their portfolios of models.

New release of SnapLogic’s intelligent integration platform announced
SnapLogic announced the May 2019 release of the SnapLogic Intelligent Integration Platform.

The new release adds new core platform capabilities such as Data Prep/Preview, Temp Disable Snap and alerts. Additionally, the release includes new API management capabilities such as Groundplex/VDC support and OAuth2 support as well as new data science capabilities.

“Algorithms are being embedded in data-driven applications and automated business processes are powering enterprises to do more in a fraction of the time, resulting in accelerated innovation, productivity, and efficiency,” said Gaurav Dhillon, the CEO of SnapLogic.

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Getting started on the accessibility track

As the nature of websites and applications has grown and evolved, we have been forced to address more complex issues as part of the development process – privacy, security, and performance among them. The next important topic we need to take more seriously is accessibility – the design of digital products or services for people with disabilities, including vision/hearing impairment, cognitive impairments, and more.

You can tell digital accessibility is reaching a tipping point when the topic starts making headlines. In this case, we’re seeing a sharp increase in legal action, including highly visible lawsuits against Domino’s Pizza and Beyoncé’s production company, which are being sued because their website or apps aren’t usable by people with disabilities. In fact, the number of digital accessibility lawsuits rose 181 percent in 2018 from the prior year.

If accessibility isn’t a top priority for your team, it’s probably time to make a commitment as accessibility compliance costs grow exponentially when left to fix in post-production. Here are a few steps to get started on the process:

Know why your organization needs to act: There are an estimated 1 billion people worldwide with some form of disability. How many of those individuals could be in your audience or become customers? As of March 2019 the CDC reports that 61 million people have a disability, which totals 26% of the U.S. population, or 1 in 4 people. This is a significant untapped market if your digital properties aren’t accessible.

Does your site, app, or other digital asset involve a transaction, download, or other user interaction? If so, inadvertently excluding people with disabilities isn’t good business sense. Google’s search algorithms weigh factors like performance and mobile optimization in search rankings. In 2017, they added an accessibility audit to their Chrome DevTools alongside performance, best practices, and SEO.  How long might it be before Google starts penalizing search rankings for inaccessible content?

Whether your accessibility efforts are motivated by cost, legal risk, company culture, or genuine altruism, start making accessibility a priority for your organization.

Identify the problems with a quick scan: Determine how accessible your site, application, or other digital assets are. You can take advantage of free automated accessibility tools to quickly discover problem areas. They are available for Chrome and Firefox, or on GitHub.

You can also perform some quick manual testing by attempting to navigate through your site using only your keyboard, or take a crack at some screen text-to-speech testing with freely available options like NVDA for Windows and VoiceOver, which is built into every Mac system.

Address the most serious violations first: Your first scan will highlight the various accessibility problems that exist, segmenting the issues it finds into categories. The main categories are:

  • Violations – where the accessibility issue is in clear violation of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). These guidelines serve as the basis of most accessibility regulations worldwide, including U.S. federal regulations and forthcoming EU regulations. WCAG 2.0 and 2.1 guidelines are also the go-to standards for organizations that want to lower their risk for ADA-based (Americans with Disabilities Act) legal action.
    In most tools, violations are then divided into critical, serious, moderate, etc. based on how significantly the issue could impact the user’s experience.
  • Best practices – while not a clear violation, the issue may not conform with practices suggested by the W3C. There’s room for improvement to make things more usable for people with disabilities.
  • Needs review – there are some accessibility issues that can’t be detected with automated tools; however, those tools can detect if certain code is present that often accompanies an accessibility issue. These are the “Needs Review” issues. They require a human to review and determine whether or not the issue is actually a problem. For example, automated tools can accurately determine if an image does or doesn’t have alt text, but they cannot determine whether or not the alt text is accurate or helpful.

You should address the violations first, though be aware that some of the big ones are easily repaired. One recurring violation is “button must have discernable text.” A vision-impaired person using a text-to-speech application might hear a button’s file name as “button.jpg,” which indicates nothing meaningful to them. If the button file name had discernible text, they would hear “click to buy product” or some other useful descriptive term signifying a specific function.

While automated accessibility testing is a great place to start, it will only catch between 30-50% of accessibility violations. Manual testing is required to be fully compliant.

Make the most of tools and open-source systems: Accessibility rules and requirements like WCAG are written to be interpreted broadly, to avoid prescribing how developers should build their front ends, and to have a longer shelf life than most web technologies. This means that three accessibility experts often have three different ways of defining and assigning value to accessibility issues.

In 2015, we open-sourced our own automated accessibility testing library, axe-core. Our hope was that publicly sharing these rules would help to standardize automated testing rules and how they define and report accessibility issues. This library has since reached 10 million downloads and has been adopted by both Google and Microsoft.

Commit to ongoing improvement and shifting-left: The most efficient approach is to shift the process as far left as possible – as early in your development process as possible. The sooner you can uncover accessibility issues, the easier it is to fix them. After you fix all the barriers that prevent users with disabilities from accessing and engaging with your content, you can then focus on improving and optimizing their experience.

Using fully automated tests can speed up the process further. While some manual testing will always be needed, integrating an automated accessibility testing tool into your existing testing environment means your team can test for accessibility as they’re coding, while more traditional accessibility tools that monitor and report on published sites can ensure that content and applications remain accessible after they’ve been deployed.

Today is Global Accessibility Awareness Day, but any day is a good day to implement your accessibility program. Aside from keeping legal action at bay, your business will be at an advantage by being fully available to a large, loyal demographic.

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