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Cooperative communications fundamentally changes the abstraction of a wireless link and offers significant potential advantages for wireless networks. However, such technologies are evaluated with idealized scenarios where many control costs are assumed to be negligible. Moreover, even if these costs appear small in simple network scenarios, they increase significantly with the size and traffic level of the network, requiring careful evaluation, or even innovative design, of cooperative protocols to ensure their usefulness in realistic networks. This article describes a realistic evaluation of cooperative communications in a networking context. Insights obtained from this evaluation help guide work on cooperative communications toward practical and potentially beneficial protocols.