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BackgroundNotwithstanding a high expectation for internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy (iCBT) for reducing depressive symptoms, many of iCBT programs have limitations such as temporary effects and high drop-out rates, possibly due to their complexity. We examined the effects of a free, simplified, 5-minute iCBT program by comparing it with a simplified emotion-focused mindfulness (sEFM) exercise and with a waiting list control group. Methods A total of 974 participants, who were recruited using the website of a market research company, were randomly assigned to the iCBT group, the sEFM group, and the control group. Those in the intervention arms performed each exercise for 5 weeks. The primary outcome measure was the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression scale (CES-D) at postintervention. Secondary outcome measures were the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) and the Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7 scale (GAD-7). Intention-to-treat analyses were conducted. Results During postintervention assessment, there were no significant differences between the intervention arms and the control group in the CES-D, although the difference between the iCBT arm and control group was close to significance (p = 0.05) in favor of iCBT. There was a significant difference in the PHQ-9 in favor of the sEFM group compared with the control group. There were no significant differences in outcome measures between the three groups at the 6-week follow-up. Conclusions Although both iCBT and sEFM have the potential to temporarily reduce depressive symptoms, substantial improvements are required to enhance and maintain their effects.