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The global $user object that exists on each page is not a complete user object, contrary to what one might think. The only time the user object is complete is after user_load() is called, because user_load() fires (calls) all of the hook_user() hooks, allowing modules to add whatever data they wish to the user object. Without user_load() being called, none of the module-added data for the user object will exist.
This task is to add documentation about this inconsistent and potentially misleading situation to the contrib/docs/core.php documentation.