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Apple's Facetime Over 3G: Too Little, Too Late!

When Apple announced its Facetime two years ago, it looked like an appealing, easy-to-use feature that might finally make video chat mainstream and routine.

But from the beginning, Facetime has been almost unusable because of limitations. Not small limitations, enormous ones. 

Now, it's two years later and Google+ Hangouts offers iPhone users (and everyone else) all the benefits of Facetime with NONE of the limitations. (The picture here shows Google+ Hangouts on an iPad -- it's what Facetime should be, but isn't.) 

Here's why I think Apple's September semi-rollout of Facetime over 3G is too little, too late:
James Burns's profile photoS. Mike Bruce's profile photoAllan Palmer's profile photoPaul Jacobson's profile photo
I haven't tried Hangouts on my iPad. What are your real-world experiences?
I don't think it is too late. The alternatives (like G+) are things that the older generation (like my mom) won't make use of, so having it available "built in to the phone" will work better for them and spur new adoption.
Too little, far too late. Three mobile UK started this in 2003.
I'm cool with Facetime over 3g as long as Apple doesn't call it revolutionary. I've participated in a Hangout between my Android device and a friend on an LTE iPad. Worked great.
The current generation of users will have to pass away before F2F video communication becomes the norm - and maybe not then, either.
+Paul Jacobson I use it at work, I work evenings, to speak to the wife and kids. Works well from my Xperia U to her iPhone 4.
fanboys will find it amazing anyway :)
It's going to be very interesting watching Apple over the next few months. I'm an iPhone 4 user but have to admit, the mobile environment has changed since I bought it. The one-two punch of Samsung form factors plus Google apps like Hangouts and Jellybean, has been tempting me to perhaps give Android a try. 
It's not to late because the fans of Apple will rejoice when it's available.  The majority of people don't use +Google+ or Hangouts, so they aren't aware or don't care about the alternative.  It's like the party doesn't start until Apple gets there...
Great article Mike. I think Google may need to work to make the Hangout experience more seamless for users, but ultimately you are correct. Hangouts are far superior.
I'm all in on Google+ hangouts. I just ditched my iPad for a Nexus7 and do hangouts on that and my laptop. I don't do Skype or Facetime anymore. I converted my wife to hangouts the past few days while i'm out of state visiting friends. She's convinced now after playing with Google Effects inside hangouts.
+Joe Diamond Have you tried the new iOS app for Google+? Hangouts is butter, man. 
Does facetime work with non apple devices?
+Mike Elgan, unfortunately I haven't had the chance yet as I don't actually own one. Just been fortunate to try it out on friends devices in the past. 
Google hangouts aren't good enough yet for mainstream use either.
Hey +Mike Elgan, I noticed a couple instances when the iOS app wouldn't open Hangouts. Has the latest update fixed that?
+Kyle Murphy Have you tried the new app? It's incredible. If you can name one video chat app that's better, I'd love to know about it. 
<----- apple fanboy and i think google+ hangouts are far superior.  cannot think of the last time i used facetime
I am all for the altenatives +Mike Elgan but correct me id I am wrong, in order to "call" someone on any app other than FT that app needs to be started explicitly by the user whereas for FT it does not..This apple impose limitation I think is the only FT advantage.
+Lindsay Donaghe tried the g+ app? we have family hangouts all the time with my 60-70 year old parents. they use their phones, tablet, and notebook.. whatever is in front of them when they get the call.. if you can make a phone call, you can pretty much at least answer a hangout ;-) p. s. its built into the phone and their nexus7
Hangouts are one of Google's best products and work on pretty much every platform. This is why I believe closed software ecosystems will ultimately always fail. Apple will never have 100% market share and so there will always be people in my life who do not use Apple products. Why wouldn't I, over time, gravitate towards the products and solutions that allow me the greatest amount of reach and provide a consistent experience regardless of who or what device is on the other side
Sharing documents within hangouts, chatting on the side at the same time. Conducting meetings with 9 people while doing all of the above.....I don't see how anyone can take FT over Hangouts or even consider it near equal.
The question I had. Did Apple actually push forward bandwidth loosening with AT&T and the other carriers. I mean before that no one had a reason to have super high bandwidth. I'm an old guy now. And for many years technology has promised us videophones at home. Just a thought.
+Paul Jacobson I've had exactly zero problems with Hangouts on the new app. But that's just my experience. 
Interesting.  I didn't realize that Facetime was one of the "reality distortion field" products. Just call me an ignorant Android user, I guess.
I remember the first time video calling was announced by Bell Labs and was going to change the world for everyone, I chuckled. When FaceTime was announced I chuckled again, even though I had (and currently have) an iPhone. Now with Google+ HangOuts I chuckle no more and fully appreciate that we have finally arrived at the promised land of video communications.
HangOuts is the one G+ feature that makes it easy for me to get my my non-G+ family members to convert. Even if they don't 'get' the whole G+ social thing being able to use any device (smartphone or tablet) to see each other is a real pleasure. I have family spread out across the entire country and not having to worry about what device they have is one less barrier to overcome. 
Thanks +Mike Elgan, glad that was resolved. I love Hangouts but don't think to use them much because I could never seem to be able to join Hangouts with my iOS device.
My website likely wouldn't have made it past the first several months without hangouts. With writers and the three of us that run the site all over the world - the several hours each week in a hangout, with whiteboard, sharing documents, and chatting on the side while several talked was crucial. Emails don't convey everything needed, the message can get lost without face-to-face communication. Having instant feedback to the documents and most important - the ability for all of us in the hangout to add, subtract, and improve on the documents in real time is truly Jetson-esque.
Good point about getting family onboard +Harold Hart. My Mom doesn't use G+ but she does want to be able to talk to my brother in Cape Town and my sister in Melbourne at the same time. She may never use G+ as a social hub but she'll use it for Hangouts. 
+Mike Elgan Awhile back, your piece about how to get people to use Google+ led me to disable FaceTime on my iPhone and iPad. If people insist on using a worse, less accessible option to accomplish a goal then what they're trying to do isn't actually important to them. Haven't been able to enact the same policy with respect to iMessage yet; for me, integrated messaging across Google products would be the last nail in iMessage's coffin.
i used FaceTime once when my sister got an iPhone. I agree it's a marketing gimmick that looked good in TV commercials. But Google Hangouts are more useful.
Why did apple name the iPad 3 the new iPad because what happens when the next one comes out... They call it the new new iPad?
Have to agree that Facetime is a little too late. I prefer using Skype or hangout.
Since the days of unlimited (unthrottled) bandwidth are gone, my question is this. How many people can afford to use either Hangouts or FT via 3G devices? Doesn't this factor alone, make for a somewhat limited market?
 +Sean Sanders  My wife wants nothing to do with Google+. But she uses Gmail and takes hangout requests from me right within Gmail. She never touches Google+ while doing that. The next time I see someone using FT will be the first time. I have an iPhone, Mac, and until this week an iPad, so I'm an Apple fan. I'm sure people are using it. Your post is more an anti-Google+ post than whether Hangouts are on par with FT.
People say Skype, they don't say Facetime. TV and movies also use Skype as the term for video chat.
+Saurin Patel Yep, it's just "iPad" from now on. Any compatibility questions will have to be settled by a "g" number as they are now with the iPod and iPod touch. ie. 4g iPod and so on.
+Jaime Santana your correct if your talking about IOS and some of the Android apps but that has to do with multitasking and the way apps utilize C2DM on Android which notifies you as soon as it arrives and not setup on push intervals. G+ doesn't have this limitation but if it does on IOS then its a limitation of the OS
Interesting. I tried from my IPhone to iPad and was "okay". Streaming very slow. 
During a major power outage, I was stuck out at the beach for almost a week.  I actually used my iPad to work productively for the first time.  While it is not perfect, I found it extremely powerful to complete work remotely.  

I really think that Apple should make Facetime and iMessages available to Windows and android users.  If others are able to use the tool, you will see adoption...especially if it is better.
+Sean Sanders umm, no, I don't know anyone calling generic video chat facetime regardless of platform. I think that's a little wishful thinking on your part.
I don't like that att is forcing you to go to the shared plans which, for me, would be more expensive. Also, in reference to the "older generation" I know pleanty of "older people" that use Skype and that's not limited by OS and doesn't require a change in account. Just my humble opinion. :)
+Sean Sanders If you use an iPhone, then you're already in the minority. If you use an iPhone and everyone you know uses an iPhone, then you're a minority of a minority. 
Look at Apple "innovating". Whatever...
Nothing wrong with Skype but I think hangouts are vastly more capable when you move beyond "hi mom!" communication. Hangouts for work collaboration are the best option I have seen - that you don't need to pay for.
Its not too little to late as many people own iphones and ipads. Once they're able to use it, the use of Facetime will sky rocket.
we are so lucky to have such smart guys in G+
I honestly think Google + hangouts are quite handy without any limitations.
Apple just needs to make these apps available other platforms.  Yes the ecosystem is nice, but if these apps could be used by all, the benefits would help the company.
The only reason I signed up for Google Plus. Facebook is a huge waste of time, all that happens is you get into arguments with idiots who don't know what facts are. With Google Plus there's at least a chance that someone will have something more substantial to say. Plus I have an IPad to hold about a third of the 17,031 songs currently on my IPod.
G+ Hangouts are not for everyone, my parents wouldn't ever in a million years figure out how to work it. FaceTime on the other hand is something they use all the time. 
The practical challenge with Skype, and where Hangouts have a real edge, is that multiple participant video Skype chats are only available to paid users. Hangouts accommodate multiple participants for free and I believe it's lighter on data use too. 
+Scott Pleasants that will never happen. I buy and use both windows, apple and Google products so I'm not biased but apple has proven to be too protective of their product and likes to micro mange everything. Opening their software to other platforms would be against this way of thinking.
FaceTime is a good service, but at this point Google+ Hangouts are superior. The truth is nobody really knows what Apple has in store in ios6 but from my perspective of owning both an iPhone and android product simultaneously, if Google can smooth their mobile os experience they could easily surpass Apple and not just because a gazillion companies make android products
Fuck iPhone and iPad if no wifi available they just junk 
Google all the way I have the iPhone and e N7 and a Galaxy Nexus and hangouts is great and works perfect on all the I have videos on my YouTube Chanel of how perfect it is
The Photoshop work on that picture is embarrassingly obvious.
"too little, too late"? you are sending a livestream of your iPhone-camera over the internet to another person. Whats "too little" with that? Do you need holographic star wars facetime?
cop con
Use google products
Facetime? Do you mean skype? It's very typical for apple to make short sighted decisions. I don't believe they put any real thought into their products and just release crap asap so people will buy it mindlessly. Every release comes with problems so huge they make headlines the next day. They could be doing 100x better but they are profiting and that's good enough for them.  Mac's are a joke to me and in my eyes have continued to fail since the MAC LC II which is the last one I owned but not last one I used unfortunately. Overpriced paperweights.
Get your point but personally think it's good to have another option...nothing more. FaceTime lets me talk to my daughter when I'm traveling (wife's not on G+) Hangouts allows me to connect far and broad for business purposes. Nothing revolutionary, by any means but I'm happy to hear. 
In 2007, I had a Nokia N95. In the UK, we were able to video call over the mobile network. Had to pay extra but it was part of the package. I had something like 100 minutes which I never used other than to test it out. I'm sure it was available before then though.
I don't understand how Apple can get away with making out that Facetime is something which they have invented. 
Then I won't get involved in them. The average American is a bonafide moron, anyway. Thanks in large part to making crap like Jersey Shore "cultural" and oudated ridiculous franchises like Batman hero models. To say nothing of the complete stupidity of Twilight and what the hell is this 50 Shades of Grey shit? I implore those people to watch Boxing Helena and see if you find that kind of crap erotic. Don't even get me started on the absurdity of the Noah's Ark story (which would require rainfall to fall continually at a rate of six inches per minute to cover Mount Everest over 40 days and 40 nights, for STARTERS yet people believe that crap) anyway, at least there's music. Even if it's absolutely terrible, which it rarely is, there's no commitment of time and energy to something you end up wishing you never even heard of, let alone watch. (and, yes, I'm in the music business-mamangement type).
I use hangouts on a Samsung Galaxy Note and a Blackberry Playbook. Amazing!
+Ben Miller Well, I'd like to video chat with my wife, but she uses an Android device. And I'd like to video chat with my son, but he's not currently on a WiFi network. And I'd like to video chat with both of them at once, but. . . . 

Too little, too late. 
Good that google makes things better. Even if it's ipad or ipod phone :)
Well said +Jeremiah Townsend am an original iPhone user from the start but android keeps tugging away at me lol...iOS is good but needs updating ASAP..
Google hang out is fantastic and the multiple user thing is great. FaceTime has a major advantage though. It's native. So it rings like a Phone and is always on without taking any extra battery. Don't get me wrong google hangout doesn't take up any more battery than any other app does. and google hangout works cross platform. It's going to be a close call. People need to learn about google hang out though. So let's get the ball rolling on that. 
FaceTime works better on my iPod touch then Hangout does!
I yak at one friend just about every day + I tried Hangout with my brother & he in in CA & I'm I'm CO & FaceTime worked better!
It's still slower in connectivity and lower in quality than ooVoo, and in iPad2, it is not possible to do multi-video chat using google plus.
It's time for Apple to seriously consider creating their own cellular network or buying an existing one and building it up. Google and Apple have technologies in the pipeline that could be available today if not for the limitations of the networks they're on. 
How in the world is native an advantage in this case?
 I can use hangouts on both of my iOS devices, on my Nexus 7, on my Windows laptop, on my work place Windows computer, and android phone.

I can use Facetime on my two iOS devices. That's it.

Again, where is the advantage to native?
It's true that Apple is cult like and like a cult they protect all of their properitary information through whatever means possible, even to the point of absurdity, and claim to be all things to all people, when that isn't remotely true. if it weren't for their stranglehold on legal music downloads, it's unlikely I would have ever bought an i Product. They're not bad, but there are things I find objectionable, mostly from the billing point of view and monopolistic practices. To get back to the cult thing, Scientology demonizes psychiatry because they offer other solutions to people in need-exploiting people in need is the entire buisness model of Scientology. Apple tends to go overboard marketing stuff as innovative that doesn't even work, like Siri, and then gets all pissy when someone can actually make it work better.
apple should make iOS 6 as appealing as android. The iphone keyboard is crap. The only reason i have stayed with iPhone is because it works. Otherwise Android is just plain superior in every other way and totally customizable. 
+Jamie Munro Last I checked, it is not tied to a specific line of hardware and it has the ability to be extended by third-parties. I realize Google isn't handing out source code for it but they are not tying it only to Nexus phones either. I'd say by way of comparison it's far more "open" than the equivalent Apple offerings
Spent part of yesterday at Best Buy playing on the Samsung Tab 10.2. Google Chrome & Hangout were fast, slick, and fun. I love the consistency amongst all of my devices. Thanks Mike.
I just forced myself to read the comments on the blog post itself. Wow, apparently you are now a fanboy of Google. But wasn't it just a few weeks ago that you were accused of being a fanboy of Apple? Of course neither of these accusations are possible, because when you are intermittently accused of being a Google or Apple fanboy, it simply proves you're unbiased. Such is clearly the case. :-)
+Jerry Johnson It's always one or the other. As you read, somebody asked me how much money Google paid me to write the post. Sigh. 
+Mike Elgan that's a shame of someone to ask how much money they paid you. Google hangouts aren't bad, and just because you encourage them, people don't have to bring up conclusions like they paid you.
+Jamie Munro Ok, I'll say that's fair. But I stick to my main point that history has shown that a "single-platform" approach rarely can dominate and hold significant market share over the long haul. And before someone comes back with an example of the one place someone has - I didn't say never, I said rarely. This is especially true in the consumer space. In the enterprise sure - IBM kicked everyone out of mainframes and have people locked in but it's much harder to exert that kind of control on the consumer side.
+Jamie Munro True but that also is driven primarily by the enterprise side and has bled over. Ask a 5th grader about MS office and they may never have used it. And may be less inclined as they get older and gain purchasing power.
To those saying that people not using Google+ detracts from Hangouts being a viable alternative, those people literally need to do no more than sign up for a Google account (if they don't already have one) to use them. It isn't like you have to make posts to use Hangouts. Hangouts could be the entirety of their Google+ activity. If someone asks you for a list of video chat services, you don't exclude Skype if they don't have a Skype account do you?
Apple's Facetime was a good idea but not being able to use it on a mobile network seriously hindered it.

Plus G+ is way better. ;)
Simple. Integrate hangouts into android devices by default without the need for the Google+ app.

This will undoubtedly be a success.
There's only one person among my friends, associates and family who uses an iPhone.  Outside of sucky coverage with AT&T, her primary complaint, as an iPhone user, is that she can't do half of what we regularly do with our Android devices--this after she finally got over complaining how ridiculously expensive her device was, in comparison to ours.  I'm happy to note that she wised-up quickly enough to buy an Android tablet, instead of being sucked into the iPad quagmire.

Why would I have a reason to look for a solution which is locked to the iAnything platform, when there is a perfectly serviceable solution to be had through G+ (one which, I might add, is cross-platform and all-inclusive)?

If you're the type of person who keeps track of the technology market statistics, it's painfully obvious that Apple is already losing their unilaterally-declared war on the portable market--just like they lost the desktop market many years ago, and in the same way that Sony lost the BetaMax wars, back in the late-70's/early-80's. 

Realizing this doesn't make me an Apple-hater (as so many are fond of accusing others of being), nor does it make me an Android fanboi.  It just means that I can see the writing on the wall and choose to spend my money a bit more judiciously.  So, please, let's just not "go there".

If you like Apple products--as well as the limitations thereof--enjoy them; but, don't expect others to agree with you, or join you in buying Apple products, themselves, to ease the sting of the proprietary tricks that Apple has played on you.
I'm going to go watch Cosmopolis at the Landmark this afternoon, sounds very promising and interesting, reflective of some of what's going on in society, particularly at the upper echelons. I thought maybe I would go to see The Campaign, but if I want to know the daily stumbles of a couple of complete incompetent doofuses in the midst of a major political campaign, all I need do is follow whatever Romney and Ryan are doing....
My question though, was the limitation from Apple or the cell vendors?  Was there concern about bandwidth or a perceived financial gain in holding off?
Google is a better version of Steve Jobs' Apple than Tim Cook's Apple. I've been an Apple enthusiast since Apple II and will say Apple is getting too complacent with their users, at some point people will want more than a fruit logo on their device. I hope they lose the case against Samsung. I want them to realize they need beat the competition based on innovation not litigation. 
Don't underestimate the iPhone integration. I don't have to leave FaceTime running like the alternatives. It operates as seemlessly as a phone call. 
+Jamie Munro I take that as more of a comment on Twitter themselves as if anyone should provide a good client for that service it should be them - their app should be THE way to use Twitter. It's not. Other apps do what they can, and many are good, I can't say what is so much better about the Twitter experience on iOS but I can say most of us get along just fine with our app of choice (whatever it may be) on Android. I don't ever expect to see OS level integration with Twitter in Android OS - and frankly I wouldn't want it, in the same way I never wanted OS integration with my web browser from Microsoft. I like the fact that Gmail is an app, so is G+, Maps, GTalk, GVoice, etc.
+Mike Elgan, as an Apple fan, I agree with everything you said in this article.  FaceTime is horrible and Hangouts is far better.


I completely disagree with your closing statement:

"Someday, Apple may catch up to Google on video chat. But I think it’s too late. The video chat train has already left the station, and Apple is isn’t on board."

Would you have said the same thing about Smartphones in 2007?

"Someday, Apple may catch up to Blackberry or Motorola on smartphones. But I think it’s too late. The smartphone train has already left the station, and Apple is isn’t on board."

FaceTime sucks, no doubt.  But your closing argument counts Apple completely out.  You should know all too well that Apple has been known to pull some serious shit out of their goodie bag, even when being late to the game.
Most of your criticism stems from you trying to use FaceTime for something it isn't intended for. Apple never, ever marketed this as a conferencing solution. This is like you complaining and saying the iPad is a terrible product because it can't replace your desktop computer. Of course it's going to suck. You're using it for something it is not intended for.

If you want conferencing, there are plenty of apps out there that allow that. But don't dismiss FaceTime just because it doesn't fit you personally. For those that use it, it works just fine.

Also, your article reading as an advert for G+ doesn't help your case. I can smell bias from a mile away.
True but the only downside about google + is hardly none of my friends are on here. 
As much as I like Hangouts and love the idea of using Hangouts to help keep in touch family on 4 or 5 continents, I also have to take into account what they are using.

Hangouts may be fine with my brother who has an Android phone and is familiar with Google+ but switching my iPhone toting and less tech savvy sister to Hangouts is a tougher proposition. We use FaceTime to keep in touch and I find it works really well.

My mother uses Skype to keep in touch with her brother in Canada and my brother and sister and while she also sees the value in Hangouts, she is even less inclined to adopt a new platform without some convincing.

Ultimately, I'll use whichever service is more convenient for whomever I am calling because the goal is to keep in touch, not use a technology for its own sake.

Hangouts have a lot going for them and I'd like to see them become the basis for a new and easy to use comms service based on open standards and so on but, for now, the best solution is a set of services.
Not like this will make people flock to the feature, but I understand you can already FaceTime over 3G by starting the call on wifi and then "switching over." I don't have a FaceTime (or 3G even) capable device (3rd gen iPod touch) to do any testing. 
Never gone to catch on because AT&T charging for this will kill it before it takes off. If it is free....sure, we will try it. If it costs a cent more that we are paying now....then we will pass. 
Normally Mike we have the same point of view but I disagree with this one.
I interview people by phone professionally and give people the choice of modalities - Skype, Facetime, Hangout.

With the average man/woman in the street Facetime wins every time as THEY dont have to do anything. I call THEIR number and the rest at their end is automatic.

Sometimes we forget we are the high tech end of the spectrum.
My wife likes to chat with her parents over Facetime since we live so far from them. It's really the only use we get out of the service, and it does work for that. I'm still trying to get them to use Hangouts as an alterrnative.
+Mike Elgan it's disappointing, if not really surprising, to see the kind of comments your article got on CoM. glad to see the discourse over here is a little more fair. maybe someone should point out to all the "FaceTime doesn't make you sign up" commenters over yonder that if they have a gmail address, they're already signed up for Google+?
i don't use an iPhone because i can't afford one. Well i can get one at my countries cellular carrier, i don't want to spend on something that will get old and out dated in 1 or 2 years. i only have a Samsung feature phone. But i have a computer, oh wait a smart phone is a computer with built-in telephony that you can carry in you pocket.

If you were in a crowd of people you do not now using an iPhone try making a FT call with them and see if you can get a response, not possible needs to be in your contacts.
Now try using Hangouts in a crowd of iPhone and Android phone users with Hangouts see if you can get someone to respond.

Lets just say... some guy walks into a bar took out his phone and opened a G+ hangout (with people within his vicinity)... 

i was trying to make a joke but could not finish it.
Just read a few of the comments, including Solowalker's. Man this guys a dick. A pompous jerk quoting the words of  +gordon ramsey. Just because his whole family is an iAPPLE stuck in their asses thinks that its the 90% or the majority just deserves to be TAXED twice he is paying now by your US gov. 

That's a joke...
Your article is spot on, as they say. I hardly use Skype anymore. Google+ Hangouts is super. It's terrific particularly on my Nexus7. I may have used Facetime once on my Mac with my son.
I've never participated in a hangout or a FaceTime call. I look forward to FaceTime over 3G, but with Sprint's coverage here I doubt I'll get much use out of it. Almost no one I know in real life is on Google +, so I'm not seeing any hangouts in the future either. 
I attempted a Hangout this afternoon with my brother from my iPad to his and all we saw were our respective profile photos. We couldn't hear or see each other. It's possible we were holding it wrong but we switched to FaceTime and it worked.

Hangouts are potentially awesome with multiple participants but when it comes to simplicity, FaceTime has a clear advantage, especially for less sophisticated users who want to tap the call button and see the person they are calling without fiddling with settings and help files.
Is there any movement toward making Facetime and Hangouts compatible?  IT would go far in letting two different parts of my family to talk to each other.
Interestingly in Australia the no 3G limit to facetime has never applied. Yet most iphone users install Skype as their videoconference option. Whilst the no 3G may have held facetime back in the USA, I think there is more to it than just that. Apple really hasnt pushed the communications aspect of the iphone! They 'integrated' with facebook and then stepped back, as though how people communicate wasnt anything to do with them.
Probably none at all +S. Mike Bruce. Jobs once said FaceTime would be built on some sort of interoperable set of protocols but that doesn't seem to have happened.

Hangouts are based on some new set of protocols and I'm not sure if those are open to other developers to build on (would be great if they are).

On top of all of that, Apple and Google are not exactly friends anymore.
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