Software Developers

Hire the Top 3% of Freelance Software Developers

Toptal is a marketplace for top software developers, engineers, programmers, coders, architects, and consultants. Top companies and start-ups choose Toptal software freelancers for their mission critical software projects.

No-Risk Trial, Pay Only If Satisfied.

Hire Freelance Software Developers

Matthew Newman

Freelance Software Developer

United StatesToptal Member Since August 2, 2017

Matthew has over 15 years of experience in database management and software development, with a strong focus on full-stack web applications. He specializes in Django and Vue.js with expertise deploying to both server and serverless environments on AWS. He also works with relational databases and large datasets.

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Johnathan Hebert

Freelance Software Developer

United StatesToptal Member Since December 13, 2016

Johnathan has 15 years of experience writing web apps that span consumer productivity software to mission-critical financial trading platforms. He has extensive knowledge of front-end JavaScript and browser APIs as well as significant experience with popular frameworks and libraries like React and Redux. Johnathan's deep full-stack experience includes Node.js and Express, MongoDB as well as more traditional technologies like PHP, ASP.NET, and MySQL.

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Alex Duggleby

Freelance Software Developer

AustriaToptal Member Since March 22, 2016

Alex is a senior full-stack developer, working on the Microsoft platform for almost two decades. He has a strong background in IT security and secure coding practices combined with working with founders in fast-paced environments to create their software prototypes and MVPs. This combination gives Alex the skillset to correctly judge and explain trade-offs in designing software between value-generating functionality, your budget/timeline, and a reliable maintainable software system.

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Frédérique Mittelstaedt

Freelance Software Developer

United KingdomToptal Member Since September 16, 2017

Frédérique is a software engineer and entrepreneur with an MSc in theoretical physics from Imperial College London. He excels at building full-stack systems with the web, desktop, and mobile apps, microservices, and external integrations. Frédérique co-founded an international marketing agency and three startups in developer tools, cybersecurity, and AI. Frédérique regularly releases TypeScript packages and contributes to other open-source projects.

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Tadej Slamic

Freelance Software Developer

NorwayToptal Member Since May 6, 2019

With over a decade in the software industry, Tadej has helped startups launch their first product, assisted FTSE100 enterprises with digital transformation, been a part of the fintech boom, and helped particle accelerators cool down. He loves creating scalable back ends and is an expert in crafting modern and performant mobile, web, and desktop apps.

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Justin Michela

Freelance Software Developer

United StatesToptal Member Since March 28, 2018

Justin is a technical professional with a passion for learning and 15+ years of experience leading teams to build enterprise-grade distributed applications that solve real-world problems. He is a firm believer that collaboration across all facets of a business, from development to marketing to sales, is required to succeed in this endeavor.

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Jay Johnston

Freelance Software Developer

United StatesToptal Member Since November 6, 2013

Coding HTML, CSS, and JS since his armed forces days in 1997, Jay's experience in adapting web technology to meet customer needs is extensive. He enjoys bringing value to clients via eCommerce solutions, legacy integrations, and optimized PHP and JavaScript-driven applications.

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Andrei Savin

Freelance Software Developer

CanadaToptal Member Since May 16, 2018

Andrei is a passionate full-stack developer with a track record of taking large-scale web applications from the drawing board to production. He is proficient with modern web technologies, highly adaptable to any business requirements, and experienced with remote work.

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Peter Stehlik

Freelance Software Developer

SlovakiaToptal Member Since December 14, 2016

Peter strives for pixel-perfect front-end responsive websites. Using preprocessors and following best practices, he delivers maintainable and well-structured code. His WordPress and PHP skills give him the ability to also develop for the back-end. Thanks to his proactive attitude, effective communication, and flexibility, he can adapt to any team conditions in a short amount of time.

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A Hiring Guide

Guide to Hiring a Great Software Developer

Hiring software developers and software engineers is easy enough: Screening for faux coders goes a long way. But recognizing the best software developers—especially the ideal ones for your particular project—is another skill altogether. Find out what to explore with your candidates, and your own team, with this practical hiring guide.

Read Hiring Guide

Software Developers Hiring Resources

More Resources to Hire Software Developers

Job Description Template

Interview Questions

Trustpilot
Toptal in the press

... allows corporations to quickly assemble teams that have the right skills for specific projects.

Despite accelerating demand for coders, Toptal prides itself on almost Ivy League-level vetting.

Our clients
Building a cross-platform app to be used worldwide
Thierry Jakicevic
Building a cross-platform app to be used worldwide
1
2
3
Creating an app for the game
Conor Kenney
Creating an app for the game
1
2
3
Leading a digital transformation
Elmar Platzer
Leading a digital transformation
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3
Testimonials

Tripcents wouldn't exist without Toptal. Toptal Projects enabled us to rapidly develop our foundation with a product manager, lead developer, and senior designer. In just over 60 days we went from concept to Alpha. The speed, knowledge, expertise, and flexibility is second to none. The Toptal team were as part of tripcents as any in-house team member of tripcents. They contributed and took ownership of the development just like everyone else. We will continue to use Toptal. As a start up, they are our secret weapon.

Brantley Pace, CEO & Co-Founder

Tripcents

In addition to sharp technical skills, Faruk had a great attitude and is a really exceptional communicator. He always let us know where he was with his work, thoroughly and reliably. That's not always the case, and it made working remotely considerably easier. He was an easy integration into the team.

Leif Abraham, Co-Founder

AND CO Ventures Inc

I am more than pleased with our experience with Toptal. The professional I got to work with was on the phone with me within a couple of hours. I knew after discussing my project with him that he was the candidate I wanted. I hired him immediately and he wasted no time in getting to my project, even going the extra mile by adding some great design elements that enhanced our overall look.

Paul Fenley, Director

K Dunn & Associates

The developers I was paired with were incredible -- smart, driven, and responsive. It used to be hard to find quality engineers and consultants. Now it isn't.

Ryan Rockefeller, CEO

Radeeus

Toptal understood our project needs immediately. We were matched with an exceptional freelancer from Argentina who, from Day 1, immersed himself in our industry, blended seamlessly with our team, understood our vision, and produced top-notch results. Toptal makes connecting with superior developers and programmers very easy.

Jason Kulik, Co-Founder

ProHatch

As a small company with limited resources we can't afford to make expensive mistakes. Toptal provided us with an experienced programmer who was able to hit the ground running and begin contributing immediately. It has been a great experience and one we'd repeat again in a heartbeat.

Stuart Pocknee , Principal

Site Specific Software Solutions

We used Toptal to hire a developer with extensive Amazon Web Services experience. We interviewed four candidates, one of which turned out to be a great fit for our requirements. The process was quick and effective.

Abner Guzmán Rivera, CTO and Chief Scientist

Photo Kharma

Sergio was an awesome developer to work with. Top notch, responsive, and got the work done efficiently.

Dennis Baldwin, Chief Technologist and Co-Founder

PriceBlink

Working with Marcin is a joy. He is competent, professional, flexible, and extremely quick to understand what is required and how to implement it.

André Fischer, CTO

POSTIFY

We needed a expert engineer who could start on our project immediately. Simanas exceeded our expectations with his work. Not having to interview and chase down an expert developer was an excellent time-saver and made everyone feel more comfortable with our choice to switch platforms to utilize a more robust language. Toptal made the process easy and convenient. Toptal is now the first place we look for expert-level help.

Derek Minor, Senior VP of Web Development

Networld Media Group

Toptal's developers and architects have been both very professional and easy to work with. The solution they produced was fairly priced and top quality, reducing our time to launch. Thanks again, Toptal.

Jeremy Wessels, CEO

Kognosi

We had a great experience with Toptal. They paired us with the perfect developer for our application and made the process very easy. It was also easy to extend beyond the initial time frame, and we were able to keep the same contractor throughout our project. We definitely recommend Toptal for finding high quality talent quickly and seamlessly.

Ryan Morrissey, CTO

Applied Business Technologies, LLC

I'm incredibly impressed with Toptal. Our developer communicates with me every day, and is a very powerful coder. He's a true professional and his work is just excellent. 5 stars for Toptal.

Pietro Casoar, CEO

Ronin Play Pty Ltd

Working with Toptal has been a great experience. Prior to using them, I had spent quite some time interviewing other freelancers and wasn't finding what I needed. After engaging with Toptal, they matched me up with the perfect developer in a matter of days. The developer I'm working with not only delivers quality code, but he also makes suggestions on things that I hadn't thought of. It's clear to me that Amaury knows what he is doing. Highly recommended!

George Cheng, CEO

Bulavard, Inc.

As a Toptal qualified front-end developer, I also run my own consulting practice. When clients come to me for help filling key roles on their team, Toptal is the only place I feel comfortable recommending. Toptal's entire candidate pool is the best of the best. Toptal is the best value for money I've found in nearly half a decade of professional online work.

Ethan Brooks, CTO

Langlotz Patent & Trademark Works, Inc.

In Higgle's early days, we needed the best-in-class developers, at affordable rates, in a timely fashion. Toptal delivered!

Lara Aldag, CEO

Higgle

Toptal makes finding a candidate extremely easy and gives you peace-of-mind that they have the skills to deliver. I would definitely recommend their services to anyone looking for highly-skilled developers.

Michael Gluckman, Data Manager

Mxit

Toptal’s ability to rapidly match our project with the best developers was just superb. The developers have become part of our team, and I’m amazed at the level of professional commitment each of them has demonstrated. For those looking to work remotely with the best engineers, look no further than Toptal.

Laurent Alis, Founder

Livepress

Toptal makes finding qualified engineers a breeze. We needed an experienced ASP.NET MVC architect to guide the development of our start-up app, and Toptal had three great candidates for us in less than a week. After making our selection, the engineer was online immediately and hit the ground running. It was so much faster and easier than having to discover and vet candidates ourselves.

Jeff Kelly, Co-Founder

Concerted Solutions

We needed some short-term work in Scala, and Toptal found us a great developer within 24 hours. This simply would not have been possible via any other platform.

Franco Arda, Co-Founder

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How to Hire Software Developers through Toptal

1

Talk to One of Our Industry Experts

A Toptal director of engineering will work with you to understand your goals, technical needs, and team dynamics.
2

Work With Hand-Selected Talent

Within days, we'll introduce you to the right software developer for your project. Average time to match is under 24 hours.
3

The Right Fit, Guaranteed

Work with your new software developer for a trial period (pay only if satisfied), ensuring they're the right fit before starting the engagement.

FAQs

  • How are Toptal software developers different?

    At Toptal, we thoroughly screen our software developers to ensure we only match you with talent of the highest caliber. Of the more than 100,000 people who apply to join the Toptal network each year, fewer than 3% make the cut. You'll work with engineering experts (never generalized recruiters or HR reps) to understand your goals, technical needs, and team dynamics. The end result: expert vetted talent from our network, custom matched to fit your business needs. Start now.

  • Can I hire software developers in less than 48 hours through Toptal?

    Depending on availability and how fast you can progress, you could start working with a software developer within 48 hours of signing up. Start now.

  • What is the no-risk trial period for Toptal software developers?

    We make sure that each engagement between you and your software developer begins with a trial period of up to two weeks. This means that you have time to confirm the engagement will be successful. If you're completely satisfied with the results, we'll bill you for the time and continue the engagement for as long as you'd like. If you're not completely satisfied, you won't be billed. From there, we can either part ways, or we can provide you with another expert who may be a better fit and with whom we will begin a second, no-risk trial. Start now.

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Software Developers

How to Hire a Great Software Developer / Software Engineer

The Impact of the Best Software Developers

A good software developer adds significant value to an organization. But a great software developer adds more than 11 times their salary in economic value.1 This guide will offer you advice you can implement right away in your upcoming search for the best software developers.

Prescreening

If you plan on hiring the best software developers, you will need to understand candidates on a deeper level. Unfortunately, it is often impractical to grant every potential candidate an interview, let alone a paid, week-long trial. Prescreening candidates with a simple, objective test can help you identify the ones that are worth a closer look.

Enter the tried-and-true “FizzBuzz test”…

The FizzBuzz Test

Question Type: Technical Skill, Expertise, and Experience

FizzBuzz Test: “Write a program that prints the numbers from 1 to 100. But for multiples of three, print fizz instead of the number, and for the multiples of five, print buzz. For numbers that are multiples of both three and five, print fizzbuzz.”

Though simple, this test will screen out a surprisingly large number of candidates.

Depending on the role you’d like to fill, you can try a couple variations. For instance, you can use a FizzBuzz test on each language required for the position.

In addition, it is easy to test if FizzBuzz code works. For example, in Python, you can find an online REPL and use it to run a candidate’s code, which may look something like this:

for fizzbuzz in range(1, 101):
    if fizzbuzz % 3 == 0 and fizzbuzz % 5 == 0:
        print("fizzbuzz")
        continue
    elif fizzbuzz % 3 == 0:
        print("fizz")
        continue
    elif fizzbuzz % 5 == 0:
        print("buzz")
        continue
    print(fizzbuzz)

If the output is correct, then they passed the test:

1
2
fizz
4
buzz
fizz
7
8
fizz
buzz
11
fizz
13
14
fizzbuzz
... etc.

Now, since FizzBuzz is a pretty well-known test, you may want to develop your own, similar test.

Another option is to incrementally introduce new requirements.

Interviewers could also make it less free-form by asking candidates to implement their FizzBuzz solution using your team’s particular software engineering architecture. This takes the FizzBuzz test to another level, screening out expert beginners, not just non-coders.

Once you have narrowed down your applicant pool through prescreening, you can begin assessing the remaining candidates’ traits to find the best developers.

What Makes a High-quality Software Developer?

What makes a software developer great? The best developers will have a combination of the following traits:

  • Technical skill, expertise, and experience
  • Leadership and initiative
  • Dedication
  • Team spirit

To help you assess these in your candidates, we have compiled a list of guidelines you can follow.

Pose Past Problems or Abstract Versions of Current Problems

Question Type: Technical Skill/Expertise/Experience

The best assessment of whether a candidate’s skills are a good fit to your organization is to see how the candidate approaches questions that your organization is currently working on or has encountered in the past.

Make a list of important current or past problems your organization has encountered. Remove details from these problems that are overly specific to your organization and/or cannot be concisely explained, so that a candidate can reasonably understand the core of a given issue. Pose these problems to candidates to see how they will perform on actual problems.

For example, imagine that you are developing a product for IT security managers. Your organization has spent several months creating a portal for these IT security managers to manage the product in their organization. You likely know the ins and outs of designing such a portal.

Ask candidates how they would go about designing such a portal, for example:

  • Which language or framework would they use?
  • How would they make the portal display in real time?
  • How would they architect the relevant databases?
  • What are some security considerations and how would they tackle these?

…while selecting the questions that are relevant to the candidate’s desired position. This allows a great understanding of your candidate’s technical acumen. Because you are experienced with this problem, you will be able to assess the quality of the candidates’ solutions and determine who is legitimately knowledgeable and skilled.

It’s worth taking the time to focus on a core architectural problem to see which algorithms and data structures the candidate would find appropriate, and why. General knowledge of the performance and storage characteristics of these choices is critical. Even if the developer will rely on standard library implementations in most cases, knowing the “big O” classifications of what’s executing behind the scenes will mean the difference between their work scaling—or failing.

Another important aspect of a technically proficient candidate is their ability and desire to mentor. Some software developers have great knowledge but are unable or unwilling to mentor others. They are apt to become overloaded with requests and can become a single point of failure to your organization since if they leave, it might be very difficult or impossible to pick up their work where they left it.

Assessing Coaching Ability

Question Type: Technical Skill/Expertise/Experience

Ask the candidate to explain a concept to you that you already understand.

The reason you should use a concept you already understand is that you will know if the explanation is helpful and correct. On the other hand, if you ask for an explanation of a concept you do not understand, you have no way of determining whether the concept is difficult, the explanation is poor, or worse, if it’s incorrect.

Are Their Goals Limited or Visionary?

Question Type: Leadership/Initiative

A key aspect of leadership is vision. Does the candidate have a direction and goal they wish to accomplish by joining the role you are offering? And is the candidate’s vision broader than themselves, e.g., encompassing the team or company? For instance, they might seek to solve a problem they themselves have encountered and look to make the world a better place. Having clear, big-picture goals makes individuals inspiring and magnetic.

Vision manifests itself in concrete ways in leaders—for example, in clearing the way for the engineering team to succeed by streamlining processes and managing bureaucracy. The engineering team can then focus on producing code and delivering an outstanding software solution.

Also, visionary leadership is often related to dedication: A software developer who exhibits the qualities of a leader will go the extra mile to overcome hardship and will boost team morale if hardship arises.

Outside-of-work Involvement

Question Type: Dedication

A great software developer doesn’t consider their job to be a chore. To them, it’s fun, challenging, and interesting. And that’s what you want from your developer—natural dedication and engagement. To get a sense of that, you’ll want to assess whether the candidate has the desire to go above and beyond the minimum requirements of the job.

Looking at their resume, is the candidate showing involvement and interest relevant to the job outside of their professional experience? For example, does the candidate contribute to open-source projects relevant to the position? Are they actively engaged in a meetup group related to the position they are interviewing for?

Another very important aspect to good hiring is for the hiring manager to take interest in the candidate’s goals and interests and make sure those align and expectations are met. Instances where an employee leaves soon after joining are all too common and usually a result of not understanding the interests of the employee.

Learning Your Candidate’s Goals and Interests

Assessment Type: Dedication

Since your goal is to hire software developers who will bring high-quality results to your development team, it’s important that their aspirations, goals, and interests are reasonably met so that they can be motivated and dedicated to the project. Note this carefully, because your goal is not to hire software developers who will do the minimum until a better opportunity comes along but ones who will be passionate about the job.

On the same point, there are well-documented cases in which hires have quit in a matter of months, with the hiring manager left confused. In such cases, both parties could have done a better job communicating their desires and listening to each other.

Evaluating a Candidate’s Approach to Teamwork

Assessment Type: Teamwork

Nowadays, participation in the broader online development community is standard fare for almost every developer. In many cases, this may mean collaboration on open-source projects (even just reporting issues), or helping other developers on Stack Overflow and dedicated programming forums.

Before the interview stage, it’s standard fare to google a candidate to find out a bit about their background. When hiring software engineers, it’s worth taking this a step further by exploring the public online communication history of a candidate:

  • How do they formulate requests for help, or answers to them?
  • When they leave comments, do they keep any criticisms constructive?
  • How do they tend to approach disagreements?

If they’re often abrasive and burn bridges in how they talk online, is there a good reason to believe they won’t do the same within your organization? Assuming they’re still a candidate after this exploration, any yellow flags discovered here are worth asking about in the interview to help understand the candidate’s perspective.

The rare developer who isn’t active in online communities may still be a good team player. Straightforward interview questions will help you judge in this case:

  • What are some past examples of development teamwork that they felt positive about?
  • What are some that went awry, and how did they learn and grow from them?

The anecdotes that arise from these questions will give you an opportunity to gauge how the candidate might fit into—and affect—your team dynamic.

Tips

The following tips can greatly enhance your interviewing success.

Tip #1: Ensure Relevant Questions and Avoid Technical Minutia

Screen for effectiveness in the task you need completed, rather than breadth of knowledge. The basic rule of thumb for determining if something is technical minutia or a critical technical detail is the combination of importance and frequency; if a detail is expected to come up frequently or will have a huge impact, then it’s worth focusing on. Otherwise, a detail that is unlikely to ever come up—or even if it does, won’t matter much—is best kept out of the interview rounds.

Make sure your technical questions are as relevant to the position as possible. For example, if seeking a data scientist (who will mainly work in R or Python), it is best to not ask questions about the technical aspects of pointers and C++. Even though such questions might offer an indirect assessment of a candidate’s technical knowledge, they are more likely to screen for the wrong qualities. In addition, elite candidates may wonder why you are asking interview questions that have little relevance to the job position and if you understand what the work entails.

It’s also best to avoid programming language headscratchers and “gotchas.” These types of puzzles may stump even the best of developers and have little bearing on real-world work, especially when best practices are followed. Such questions are engaging academic exercises, but they don’t belong in an interview as a pass/fail test, where they will certainly put a barrier between your organization and great developers—even ones who can successfully answer them.

In today’s software development space, even specialized roles can involve knowledge of dozens or even hundreds of pieces of technology. Define a set of crucial elements in consultation with your current team, but don’t be deterred by the fact that candidates won’t have encyclopedic knowledge of your entire development stack. For example, it’s not important that they know the name and function signature of every date-handling function in the standard library of your main language. What is important is that they’re aware such things exist and that they should default to using them whenever working with dates. Besides, every software engineering role will involve some amount of on-the-job training and ongoing learning as the software landscape continues to evolve.

It’s not worth focusing on easily-looked-up syntax, either. If a compiler or linter will catch it, an interview shouldn’t. Instead, present the candidate a fully functional development environment and some simple code with a mistake in it. Then, ask them (without a visible time limit) to walk you through the steps they take as they debug it. Whether they need to google the docs is much less relevant than whether they succeed.

After all, even basic operators like ->, &, and . can have wildly different meanings between languages; developers who are expected to work with multiple languages are unlikely to keep these meanings straight 100 percent of the time, especially in the stressful context of an interview. The bottom line is, a simple hands-on debugging exercise will give you a much better sense of their basic abilities than a closed-book quiz.

Remember, your goal is to find great software developers. If a question or detail can be easily looked up or has no bearing on actual software development, it’s best not to use it to screen candidates.

Tip #2: Offer a Trial Period

A trial period is certainly an added expense that we would all prefer not to have, but it pays itself in dividends. In this era of remote work, a trial is easier than ever using effective remote tools like Slack and Zoom.

Start with the smallest tasks that require the least institutional knowledge, and therefore the least lost time for the new hire and the rest of the team. Assign aesthetic tweaks, minor bug fixes on low-risk, isolated parts of the codebase. If the relevant internal documentation is lacking, the new hire will likely find it; if the knowledge gap isn’t too large, they may even be able to help improve it.

Let new hires be part of code reviews, too. Their opinions in this context should highlight what they’re bringing to the team. But it can also reveal areas where their practices or personality may not be the best fit for your team, and how likely it is that that can be rectified.

Having to cut losses at this point is never an easy choice, but with carefully selected tasks for a trial period, your team and organization should at least come away with some work completed, plus increased self-knowledge that can be used for the next trial. Successful trials will also have partially onboarded the new hire and put them on firm footing to start ramping up their contributions.

Tip #3: Get as Many Opinions as Possible

Get as many opinions from your team as possible about your hire. Sometimes, it’s the quiet ones that have the most insightful things to say!

The reason for this is, it’s natural for people to relate to various individuals differently—and this is especially true here. For example, a nervous candidate might avoid conflicting opinions with those who will decide whether to hire them but be a little more comfortable being open with their future colleagues.

Whatever the dynamics may be, collecting as many people’s impressions as possible will more than likely help to reveal nuances about the candidates’ experiences and communication patterns. Either way, you’ll benefit from a more accurate picture of your candidates, and that will help you make the best selection when hiring software engineers.

Hiring the Best Developers for Your Software Development Team

You now have a great template to start with for looking for the best software developers. The most important idea to learn from this guide is that finding great employees requires being proactive and attentive. But like all worthwhile things, the prize is worth the effort.


1: Spencer, L.M. “The Economic Value of Emotional Intelligence Competencies and EIC-Based HR Programs.” In The Emotionally Intelligent Workplace: How to Select for, Measure, and Improve Emotional Intelligence in Individuals, Groups, and Organizations, eds. C. Cherniss and D. Goleman, Chapter 4. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass/Wiley, 2001.

In a productivity study of computer programmers, above-average performers were 320% more productive than average programmers. Top performers were 1,272% more productive, adding economic value more than 11 times their salary.

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