Thursday, January 18, 2024

StoreKit Purchase Link Entitlement for United States


Starting today, because of a recent United States Court decision, App Store Review Guideline 3.1.1 has been updated to introduce the StoreKit Purchase Link Entitlement (US), which allows apps that offer in-app purchases in the iOS or iPadOS App Store on the United States storefront the ability to include a link to the developer’s website that informs users of other ways to purchase digital goods or services.


A commission will apply to digital purchases facilitated through the StoreKit Purchase Link Entitlement (US). For additional details on commissions, requesting the entitlement, usage guidelines, and implementation details, view our support page.


Apple has updated their App Store Review Guidelines to now allow apps in the United States, that offer in-app purchases, the ability to include a link to the developer’s website that informs users of other ways to purchase digital goods or services.

Juli Clover (Hacker News):

Apple is allowing apps to feature a single link to a developer website that leads to an in-app purchase alternative, but Apple plans to continue to collect a 12 to 27 percent commission on content bought this way.


Links cannot be placed directly on an in-app purchase screen or in the in-app purchase flow.


Apps that use the StoreKit External Purchase Link must continue to offer in-app purchases as an option.

App Store pages are not able to include information about purchasing on a website or a link to a website.


Links must open a new window in the default browser of the device, and are not able to open a web view.

David Heinemeier Hansson:

Okay, sure, the company says, you can link to your website from your app, so consumers may know that there’s a cheaper way to buy your software, but if you do so, we will charge a 27%(!!!) commission on that link, require you to submit financial reports every few weeks(?!), will reserve the right to audit your books at any time(???!), AND hold the threat of expulsion from the App Store over your head, in case we find you to be out of compliance.

Change Miller:

The other anti-steering change that Apple is required to make is to allow developers to communicate with customers outside of their apps about alternative purchasing options, such as via email.

Tim Sweeney (Hacker News):

Developers can’t offer digital items more cheaply on the web after paying a third-party payment processor 3-6% and paying this new 27% Apple Tax.

2) Apple dictates all aspects of these links and doesn’t allow them in the app’s ordinary payment flow. Rather, links must be separated out into a different section of the app, away from places where users actually buy stuff.

3) Apple requires developers to open a generic web browser session, forcing the user to log in to the developer’s web site again, to make a purchase. And because of #2, users will have to search all over again for the digital item they wanted to buy.

4) Apple will front-run competing payment processors with their own “scare screen” to disadvantage them.

John Gruber (Mastodon):

They’re only demanding the commission from web sales that occur within 7 days of a user tapping through to the web from the new External Purchase Links entitlement in an app.


To be clear, I think Apple should allow apps other than games to just tell users they can pay/buy/subscribe/whatever on the web, without any commission. That the rules which have applied only to “reader” apps since early 2022 should be extended to all apps other than games, perhaps alongside a requirement (which doesn’t apply to “reader” apps) that apps taking advantage of this also offer in-app purchasing.

I don’t see why games should be singled out.

Ben Lovejoy:

One common point from those on Apple’s side was that games consoles apply the same rules as Apple. However, a key difference is that Sony and Microsoft sell their hardware at a loss in order to generate revenue from software. For console manufacturers, a hefty app commission is vital for their business model. Apple, in contrast, earns the highest hardware margins in the business.

Riley Testut:

Quite literally the smallest of wins, but still sad it took almost 4 years of litigation just to allow mentioning external payment systems in apps

Francisco Tolmasky:

LOL we went from the Web being the “Sweet Solution” to iOS apps to needing a fucking entitlement to “include a link in your app.”

Combined with the dryness of Swift, the Apple platform now feels like working with J2EE at some mega corp where you submit a bug fix & wait 3 months for bureaucratic approval.

John Gruber:

My argument remains that Apple should not be pursuing this plan for complying with the anti-steering injunction by collecting commissions from web sales that initiate in-app. Whatever revenue Apple would lose to non-commissioned web sales (for non-games) is not worth the hit they are taking to the company’s brand and reputation — this move reeks of greed and avarice — nor the increased ire and scrutiny of regulators and legislators on the “anti-Big-Tech” hunt.


Rather than take a sure win with most of what they could want, Apple is seemingly hell-bent on trying to keep everything.

And they’ve lost sight of the user experience. Now that external purchases are allowed, Apple is imposing requirements that deliberately make them hard to use and force businesses to add tracking.


Apple is making that link a landmine for developers and for users in terms of privacy. Say I click on the link for Spotify from the App Store. Then at any time during the next seven days, I sign up for Spotify over the web. Spotify is required to both have a mechanism for tracking me to know that I had clicked on the link from the App Store in the last 7 days Apple and to give Apple a ca. 30% cut regardless of whether I ever even use the Spotify service through the App Store. […] And then the warning language that the link may violate your privacy etc, when Apple is the one forcing the company to track where the traffic came from not just in that one instance but for at least the following seven days and then that Apple will be auditing that data.

Dare Obasanjo:

This is the same energy as Apple ATT.

Everything on this page is technically true but the entire subtext is Apple is scaring the user into buying the in-app purchase on their iPhone where they get a 30% cut instead of on the web when the developer has linked to their website.

Jamie Zawinski:

Apple just got their ass handed to them in a lawsuit, but their pettiness remains boundless.

Tyler Hall:

It’s exactly what we all knew Apple would do.


And yet, as I move on to reading John’s post about the new App Store guidelines, all I can think of is how modern-day Apple is one giant corporate contradiction. The same company that builds the technology to watch a movie in front of a Tatooine sunset is the same company removing all of the joy and fun out of the process of building that sunset.

Modern-day Apple is its own binary star. One fueled by creativity. And another fueled by arrogance.

John Gruber:

Apple’s 30/15 percent commissions from App Store purchases and subscriptions are not payment processing fees. They include payment processing fees, but most of those commissions are, in Apple’s view, their way of monetizing their intellectual property. And they see the entire iOS platform as their IP.

Since when? That was not Apple’s view with its previous platforms. It was not the way Steve Jobs explained things when announcing the App Store. It was not Phil Schiller’s view when he suggested reducing the commissions so as to keep App Store profits at $1 billion. It seems more like a backward justification to keep all the profits after the App Store exceeded expectations.

Colin Cornaby:

We’ve come a long way since the days of “we can only allow apps from the App Store for carrier network security and we’re not even doing this for the money.”

Dave B.:

I’m as big an Apple fan as there is, but Apple’s position here is ridiculous.

A) The ecosystem is locked down and curated to provide users with the best possible experience. The ‘Walled Garden’ exists to maintain a safe, consistent, well-designed UX for premium products.

B) Apple maintains the ecosystem and spends lots of time and money doing so, so of course they deserve a large cut of all commerce occurring within it.

Pick one.

You can’t have it both ways. A or B. Not both. They’re incompatible.


If the top concern was the privacy, safety and overall experience, the solution is straightforward[…]: institute rules that protect the customer.

Allow some leeway, but have a mechanism where if you act in a way that defrauds or misleads the customer, you are liable to be booted off the App Store. With this in place and effectively administered, there would be no point in attempting to mislead the customer. Whether an abuse of In-App Purchases, a particularly malodorous third-party payment system or just shifty behavior in general, it could be chalked up to the same offense. Or, to focus on the positives, an opportunity to throw down the gauntlet and focus on reasoned, respectful behavior, building a community of trust, providing the rising tide that lifts all boats.

Instead, the focus is on the enshrined axiomatic supremacy of whatever the Apple payment solution is. If you find it wanting, and want to do something else, tough noogies.


Instead, the focus is on the absence of trust, the framing of the developers who largely built the platform’s identity, humanity and success as rogue agents incapable of contributing productively.

David Heinemeier Hansson:

Can you imagine if Google wanted 27% of any sales that resulted from anyone visiting your store after finding you in their search engine?? AND the right to audit your books to ensure they got their rake?? AND THE THREAT TO KICK YOU OFF GOOGLE IF YOU DIDN’T COMPLY? Nuts.

Francisco Tolmasky:

The message from Apple is clear: if you don’t want to pay Apple’s 30% tax, you should monetize your app through advertising.

Tom Gerken (via Hacker News):

Spotify has reacted with fury, saying the policy “flies in the face” of the US court’s attempt to enable greater competition.

“Once again, Apple has demonstrated that they will stop at nothing to protect the profits they exact on the backs of developers and consumers under their app store monopoly,” it said in a statement.


“We strongly urge UK lawmakers to pass the bill swiftly to prevent Apple from implementing similar fees, which will help create a more competitive and innovative tech industry for UK consumers and businesses.”

Brent Simmons (Mastodon):

Apple doesn’t care about you personally in the least tiny bit, and if you were in their way somehow, they would do whatever their might — effectively infinite compared to your own — enables them to deal with you.

Luckily, Apple has just provided us all with a reminder. Just like the sixth finger in an AI-rendered hand, Apple’s policies for Distributing apps in the U.S. that provide an external purchase link are startlingly graceless and a jarring, but not surprising, reminder that Apple is not a real person and not worthy of your love.

Craig Hockenberry:

Apple’s steadfast refusal to back down on anti-steering is burning a lot of bridges at all levels of the developer community.

John Gruber:

If Apple’s in-app purchasing system is so easy to use, so reasonably priced for its benefits, and so trusted by users, it should be able to compete openly with the web. And I think Apple’s in-app payments do compare favorably to leaving an app to pay on the web, especially for games. But with true competition from web purchases that apps can steer users to, Apple’s commission rates, for apps other than games at least, would probably be lower. I’d argue that it’s unhealthy for a company to grow dependent on unnaturally high commissions protected by fiat policies, rather than set through open competition.


Regardless of whether these anti-steering provisions are legally anticompetitive, they’re undeniably anticompetitive in the plain sense of the word. I genuinely believe the Supreme Court has done Apple a favor letting this ruling stand.

Colin Cornaby:

I think the big disappointment I had was that I was hoping that Apple would see the way the wind was going and make things easy for developers. Between the rumor that Apple is going to split the stores to prevent sideloading in the US, and the payment stuff, doesn’t seem that way.

I think worldwide governments are going to take a much dimmer view of locked down software and operating systems. Would be nice to see Apple lead the way in that new era.

Nick Heer:

I feel compelled to emphasize this one point: this is a U.S.-only capability.


Instead of one App Store around the world — with minor asterisks — there will now be different permissions depending on which geographically-restricted features a developer chooses to use. And Apple has created a bureaucracy to ensure it captures all the money it believes and has argued it is owed.

Craig Grannell:

only doing what’s forced, when there’s no other option, is not a great look. And devs already have a hard enough time. Fragmenting requirements in the multiple ‘app stores’ around the world seems like quite the destination.

Ian Betteridge:

Apple had a chance to turn a legal defeat into a long-term victory. With Google charging 26% in the same circumstances, the company could have adopted rules which dramatically reduced the levy it wants to take, say to 12% for all developers. This would have gained the company a lot of credibility over the long term.

But no. Instead, it chose to protect short-term revenue, and do something which looks petty, hostile to the developers who have made iOS a successful platform, and which will probably end up in court, again.

Ryan Jones:

So so sad they are going to force regulators to write our rules.


Those of us who lived through it look back on the Microsoft antitrust era of the late ’90s with particular distaste… future us will be looking back on Apple’s App Store shenanigans of the past decade the same way, likely with even more scorn.

Microsoft got in trouble for bundling their browser with the OS and for preventing resellers from pre-installing competing browsers. They never interfered with other companies making their apps available. Apple doesn’t let resellers pre-install apps and does prevent certain apps (including third-party browser engines) from even being available.

David Heinemeier Hansson (tweet):

But Microsoft’s brutish tactics also managed to turn an entire generation of developers against them. And the bill for that didn’t come due until Windows Phone. Nobody, and I mean nobody, wanted to lift a finger to help Microsoft gain a foothold in mobile. The wounds from the late 90s and early 2000s were still fresh in many developers minds. So many cheered as Apple went from underdog, favored by developers for their embrace of Unix roots in their operating system, to the dominant player on a new platform.

Microsoft has had to work hard to undo that poisoned relationship ever since, and under Satya Nadella, seems to have broadly succeeded in that mission. Microsoft is no longer developer’s enemy #1, Apple is.


Apple would be wise to study the long arc of Microsoft’s history. Learn that you can win the battle, say, against Epic, and end up losing the war for the hearts and minds of developers. And that while the price for that loss lags beyond the current platform, it’ll eventually come due, and they’ll rue the day they chose this wretched path.


I agree with @daringfireball that Apple’s approach of still charging 27% and showing a scary dialog in response to any law asking them to allow apps to use their own billing for IAPs is basically a 🖕 to regulators.

The question is if regulators will respond?

John Gruber:

I’m not sure why Spotify doesn’t qualify under the “reader” app category that can link to external web pages without paying Apple any commission at all.


Here’s a simple thought I had today regarding whether Apple’s new External Purchase Links entitlement policy is a good faith compliance with Judge Gonzales’s order: Will any developers actually choose to use it? Remember, to use this entitlement, developers must[…]

Christina Warren:

I cannot believe Apple is going to charge a 27% tax so developers can link to their homepage. I’m generally pretty meh on a lot of tech regulation if only b/c I think most government officials are idiots and it often doesn’t actually work. But this sort of move should be illegal. Full stop. It isn’t. But it should be.


[The] kindle app and Sony’s ebook app (which was killed by the rule change) let you buy books inside the webview of the kindle app. Then suddenly, Amazon couldn’t even link to their Kindle store from inside the app, which as Michael points out, the emails show was about iBooks sucking (even tho Apple literally broke the law trying to compete with Kindle. They broke the law and still lost), more than anything else.

Not enough people discussing this are acknowledging that, even if you only look back as far as the start of the App Store, Apple’s current stance is not how things always were. Tim Cook’s testimony notwithstanding, Apple has in effect raised the fees over the years by increasing the scope of what the 30% applies to.

And Kindle is still stuck, even aside from the fee, because the IAP system still isn’t up to handling a catalog of that size. iBooks, of course, gets to use private APIs.

Jeff Johnson:

I hear so much revisionist history and ex post facto apologia nowadays, but we old Mac devs are not fooled.

Mike Rockwell:

What Apple has done by locking down the platform is far worse than anything Microsoft ever did with Windows.

Charlie Sorrel:

It’s sad that a company that competes in the hardware world simply by making the best computers available can’t do the same in services. It would rather use its dominant position to bully developers into using its IAPs instead of making them so good that everybody would just want to use them.

Daniel Andrews:

Companies like Apple love to fashion themselves as a lifestyle or an identity brand, because they know that if people watch their specific actions too closely they’ll be reminded they’re simply a business that needs to keep growing to keep their shareholders happy. […] it just feels like we’ve hit an inflection point where Apple’s behavior is getting almost no support because there’s really no logical defense aside from the fact that Apple wants to make as much money as possible.

Dave Verwer:

I know nothing and am glad I don’t have to fix these problems. However, it seems like my prediction that making the smallest possible concession after every judgment will only make things worse is coming true. Every move brings so much negative attention and additional scrutiny.

Dave Verwer:

I would support a bigger rethink of how the App Store works. A shake-up that focuses on downloads and usage more than taking a percentage cut of financial transactions. One that makes sure that the largest companies in the world, who get massive value from the platform, pay something instead of nothing. I don’t know what that model looks like, but I can only really see changes of that magnitude putting an end to this current situation.

Armin Briegel (via Jeff Johnson):

Managing and curating the App Store is certainly a gargantuan task and there will always be false positives and negatives. But Apple took this job on themselves. No-one had asked them for this. The Mac was doing great before the App Store and still has a rich software market outside of it. Any goodwill Apple might have earned when they set out with noble intentions in 2008 is used up. Now, it is difficult to avoid the impression that Apple is not competing on quality, but instead taxing access.


Apple claims they compete with quality and ease of use, and their customers are willing to pay for a better experience. Generally, they succeed with this. But with the App Store, Apple has a strange blind spot. They have no competition and it shows. The App Store is neither safe nor easy to use. It is littered with ads (that Apple earns more profit from). It has a significant cost for developers, and instead of getting good value in the form of a safe market place, small developers live with the permanent risk that their income disappears because of some unpredictable review decision or because some scam developer outspends them on ad placements.

More than 15 years after its introduction, entire categories of apps and tools are still excluded from the App Stores. Many creative ideas will never be realized, because developers believe they will never pass review. For Mac admins, despite the fact that Apple has been cajoling developers to use in-App purchases and subscriptions, we cannot manage either with Apps & Books (formerly known as VPP).

John Gruber:

I’m up to at least half a dozen instances now where group chat discussions have turned to concerns that Apple might assert the same demand for a 27 percent cut of all Mac software. Meaning not just apps in the Mac App Store, but apps from outside the Mac App Store — even apps that are only available outside the Mac App Store. Even apps from developers who don’t have any apps in the Mac App Store. There’s now genuine concern that Apple is going to declare that they want a 27/12 percent revenue cut from all Mac software, full stop.

I’m disappointed by Apple’s decision to demand their commission from sales on the web linked from within iOS apps, but not surprised. But I can’t emphasize enough how flabbergasted many developers are — nor how offended.


Essential to the Mac’s continuing relevance is that it is continuously evolving. Much has changed since 2010, and much will surely change between now and the Mac’s 50th anniversary in 2034. But one thing that can’t change without destroying it is its openness to software outside Apple’s control.


Developer uncertainty regarding the viability of selling Mac software is the last thing needed for a platform that is already facing a dearth of new original native software. Apple doesn’t have to make a platform-destructive money-grab policy change to ruin the Mac. They can ruin it simply by planting the seed of doubt that they might.

I don’t think Apple would actually do that, but they have certainly been making the experience of selling software outside the Mac App Store worse: no more directory of apps, ineligibility for awards, spreading FUD that if it’s not in the App Store it isn’t safe, and a parade of buggy security requirements that make it harder to distribute apps. There are lots things that could be done to improve the experience of installing and updating apps, but they would rather everyone use the App Store.

See also: Dithering, Accidental Tech Podcast.

The Apple fallacy of bringing customers:

With DMA, if a user click a link to pay on your website, Apple takes its 27% cut because they say they brought you a customer.

However, when you bring customers from outside the App Store with your own marketing (easily trackable with campaigns), Apple still gets its 30% cut despite YOU brought them a customer.


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Old Unix Geek

IIRC, Microsoft also had access to hidden APIs to make their software run faster than the competition, but yes, I hold Apple in the same contempt as I used to hold Microsoft. Hopefully the Windows phone curse will hit their goggles. Even buying and wrecking Nokia didn't assuage that curse.

Apple is behaving worse than badly. Epic must now pay $73 million, and Apple is contemptuously spitting in its face. If this is how they treat the Unreal Engine, then how little must they care for the average indie? Developing new software for the Mac/iPhone seems to me to be a fool's errand.

With reference to the binary star: Companies that escape enshittification seem far and few between: As far as I am concerned, Apple's binary stars are hardware (plus low level software) and everything else. The latter has succumbed to enshitiffication... the former: not quite yet.

Only 27%, this is a bargain considering Apple invented the web just the day after creating the universe.

So sad to see Apple doubling down on being so consumer unfriendly. I cannot wait til the US steps in a makes it work, even if the solution is not great.

And they expect people to make vision pro apps. In my (radical) opinion the comission should be 0%—third party apps now make apple devices worth more than anything apple can make them, and the comission should reflect that.

@Old Unix Geek My recollection is that Microsoft did a lot of shady stuff like that but that it mostly wasn’t what they got in antitrust trouble for.

Old Unix Geek

@MichaelTsai -- you might be right about that.

There was a pretty strong anti-Microsoft feeling though in those days. They were up to all sorts of shenanigans. I remember that they also required every PC to be sold with a Windows License IIRC, even if you wanted to put Linux on it.

@Old Unix Geek Yes, they wouldn’t let Dell (say) sell any PCs with Windows if they sold any without it. The actual antitrust case was kind of weak, I think, but a lot of people wanted them to lose because of the contempt they showed during the trial and because of their previous bad behavior.

Just wtf at The Evil Empire trying to soften the blow by "It's only purchases made within 7-days of clicking that link".

What I want to see now is a universal "Click here to start your 8 day free trial followed by subscription. Payment for which will be withdrawn from your account 8 days from now!" design pattern.

A 12-27% commission, granting Apple the right to audit your books, and forcing a terrible user experience on customers essentially prohibits any developer from actually implementing this, practically speaking. Nobody is going to go through all that trouble to implement a link to *maybe* make a few extra pennies. Audit our books? Who the hell do they think they are the IRS?

>"If the top concern was the privacy, safety and overall experience, the solution is straightforward[…]: institute rules that protect the customer." Jesper

There is no point in even talking about privacy and safety as an issue. Clearly this is all about money and greed.

> "It's only purchases made within 7-days of clicking that link

I thought referral links and tracking cookies were evil and violated user privacy? Oh right it's okay because it's Apple. Ads are evil...until Apple does it. Got it.

Between all this nonsense and Apple's unhealthy obsession with SwiftUI I'm halfway out the door.


The shear piles of money that they make from the App Store are single handedly keeping the revenue from dropping over the last several years. It seems as golden a calf as there could be, which is pretty tragic.

Gaming is a great example. Steam and xbox aren't on the App Store because of the 30% tax. Had Steam been allowed, the proton framework would be adapted to support M1 chips, and AAA gaming would've been on the Mac years ago. Even then, for years iPhones have been more powerful than most consoles, especially the popular switch. The App Store policies incentivize gacha, pay to play, and other predatory monetization schemes. It is insane that the biggest sellers of VR games won't be on this $3500 device because of those same policies.

The sales pitch is that they sell hardware to enable developers, but I feel the stock price grew too much that enshittification was unavoidable.

"most of those commissions are, in Apple’s view, their way of monetizing their intellectual property"

This is so incredibly dumb. The way they monetize their IP is by selling stuff to consumers, not by hurting developers that make the stuff they sell to consumers attractive in the first place.

Anyway, in completely unrelated news, after getting rid of all Apple products in my life, I've now also sold my Apple stock.

To some degree, we already see developer revolt with the Apple Watch. I’ve been a hardcore Apple user since the late 80s, and I have bought hundreds of third party apps for their various platforms over the years. But with Apple Watch, zero. I only use the built in apps, plus a sleep tracking app on my iPhone. I haven’t seen any compelling third party apps for the watch.

This revolt is really going to come due for the Vision Pro. I don’t see a path forward where this thing isn’t a flop. Apple should be paying developers to write software for it, not the other way around.

I think apple has run the numbers and seen that as long as they have tiktok, the various facebook flavours, and utilitie apps like banks and taxi apps, they're fine.

They don't need third party apps anymore because people aren't buying the iPhone for clever new apps.

> I think apple has run the numbers and seen that as long as they have tiktok, the various facebook flavours, and utilitie apps like banks and taxi apps, they're fine.

Then why are they aggressively trying to enforce their cut?

Having FB app may be required for a lot of people to buy the iphone (strange world) but FB is free and as far as I know Apple gets essentially nothing from all the loot FB generates from ads.

What I meant was that they've run the numbers of potential outfall from angry indie devs vs gains from just squeezing the appstore for every penny.

The vast majority of the millions they're making on their rent seeking is from low effort free to play apps. Those apps basically copy each other all day long and are happy as long as apple turn a blind eye to their business model of robbing children.

They won't rock the boat in other words.

Next up are the apps that rely on surveilance capitalism, they don't give a shit about the 30% tax because they aren't paying any money.

Then we have the troublesome tier of Netflix, Spotify and other subscrition based services. They are bribed and or given special treatment and trapped. They won't leave iOS.

As for the facemask I bet apple are hoping for something other than "watch movies on palnes" becoming the usp. "Listen to streaming music" sureley ain't the future of AR/VR.

So, when I said apple had run the numbers I meant they know a handfull of upset indie devs won't impact their bottom line. The average Jill and Joe care more about blue bubbles than lovingly handcrafted unique apps.

> Then why are they aggressively trying to enforce their cut?

Exactly ObjC4Life. I think they (and everyone else) need the cut now that all the biggest technical goodies from the 60's and 70's have been tapped out.

I personally don't hate Apple, but I'm starting to more and more realize what Michael Darius was talking about on Threads a while back where he was lamenting the takeover of Apple by music industry execs. Jeff Johnson (I think) tweeted a long time ago about the absurdity of treating a software platform like music singles. Starting to make more sense.

> Developing new software for the Mac/iPhone seems to me to be a fool's errand.

Yeah, Old Unix Geek. As someone who once loved Apple's platform and frameworks... certain websites are now working really really well as PWAs. Flutter Web gets complaints about being slow, but still it looks promising as far as something that's a desktop-class framework. As far as native mobile apps, only way I think I'll ever ship any more of those is likely by using HyperView.

Being a "good" native app developer these days seems to be more and more exactly like what you said - a fools errand.

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