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Q&A with Rod Johnson over Spring's maintenance policy changes

09.24.2008
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This is the content of a Q&A I did with Rod Johnson, concerning the uproar over Spring's announced changes in their maintenance release publication. Hopefully, this clears up not only what's going on, but why.

  1. Assume I'm a new user of Spring - I'm considering it for a green-field project. What license am I going to see?

    Spring remains licensed under the Apache License. There is no change of license. [Author's note: See "What does it MEAN?", from the ASL 2.0's FAQ page, on what the ASL says, in layman's terms.]

  2. What does the enterprise support license offer me?

    Subscribers get maintenance releases on whichever version of the framework they are running, for up to 3 years. They also get 24x7 support, which isn't available in the community. Subscribers also receive the SpringSource Enterprise package, which consists of three significant value adds above Spring: the SpringSource Tool Suite (comprehensive Eclipse-based solution for optimizing Spring development); SpringSource Application Management Suite (advanced management and monitoring of Spring-based applications in development and production); and advanced connectivity to Oracle RAQ and AQ.

  3. Now, for the more likely scenario: I'm a longtime user of Spring, I've downloaded every release up to 2.5.5. What am I going to see as far as the releases go?

    With each major version (3.0, 3.1, 4.0...) you will see packaged releases during the first 3 months. After that, you can build your own binaries if you wish to remain on that version--the source will remain open--or you can upgrade to the next major version when it's released.

  4. How do I get the latest and greatest revision of Spring?

    Go through SpringFramework.org and download as you always did. [Author's note: this is exactly what the release policy is changing! Basically, if you're don't have the enterprise support license, the publicly available download might not be the same as the version the support license holders will see. The releases won't be the same if: a major release is more than three months old and updates are available for that major release.]

  5. I use Maven - and as an enterprise customer of Spring, I have access to release versions that the community has to build manually. My customers may or may not be enterprise customers - so they might not have access to the same repositories I have access to. What happens to them?

    We are aware of this issue and will be helping our customers to resolve it.

  6. Why did you make this change?

    We need to balance the needs of enterprise class customers with those of the open source community.

    SpringSource makes a huge investment in Spring development--millions of dollars per year. As more and more releases of Spring are used in production, we cannot divert resources for *free* maintenance of all those releases for conservative customers. We want to be able to focus our efforts for the community on adding new features--we can't afford to have conservative enterprises effectively subsidized by the community. The Federal government may subsidize Wall St: I don't think that SpringSource or the Spring community should be doing so.

    We put a lot of thought into how to balance these concerns, and I think we have a very good solution. This change enables us to serve both types of stakeholders. The community still has access to all the source. Enterprise customers are happy paying for enterprise support and maintenance--for them, having the guarantee of 3 year support is a strong reason in favor of using Spring.

    We believe that this will be good for our business. But we shouldn't have to apologize for that. I've always argued strongly that long term success of open source requires a strong revenue model behind it.

  7. What would you say to those community members who've supported you throughout Spring's lifetime, and feel like you're cutting them off?

    We're concerned at any upset among the Spring community. But I do ask people to make a little effort to understand what we're doing and why we're doing it. I think we've earned that right.

    We are not cutting off the community. Our source code remains open. We continue to make a huge investment in providing what is probably the highest quality open source code base in enterprise Java. We've made something like 100 open source releases this year.

    The only people who are affected by this policy are those who won't or can't upgrade to the latest release, or won't compile Spring under any circumstances. Those people can pay to receive maintenance releases and many other benefits. People who won't touch source under any circumstances and won't pay under any circumstances don't believe in open source: They believe in other people doing work for them for free.

  8. There are people suggesting that Spring be forked, basically taking the codebase and storing it elsewhere for patches, retaining the availability of the public revisions. There are some obvious difficulties with this: keeping compatibility for updates in the main Spring repository would necessarily make the forks almost identical to Spring itself, for example, and there's the obvious "sour grapes" feel to such a thing, but what are your opinions of a potential fork?

    Forks historically don’t tend to succeed, and aren’t in the best interests of open source projects, for obvious reasons.

    I think it would make sense to fork Spring if we were doing a poor job of stewardship of Spring. The reality is that we are delivering an enormous amount of new open source software, with a high quality level and a constant stream of innovation and new features. I don’t see anyone doing a better job, or even anything at remotely the same level.

    I think the community would see through it pretty quickly if a third party company attempted to set up a fork without doing the heavy lifting behind Spring. Will we see an Oracle or the like try to do that? I don’t think so, because I think it would backfire with the community while failing to deliver value to enterprise customers, who want support backed by the developers behind the software. I don’t think any credible software company is naïve enough to try something like that, or wants to incur the bad karma it would bring.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if we do see community builds out there, and they may fulfill a useful need for non enterprise-class customers.

    But above all, it’s hard to see a rational case for forking Spring when the Spring source code is available from the main repository.

Basically, the result is this: if you build Spring from the source repositories, you're always going to have the most recent version, with the most recent fixes. As Rod said: "People who won't touch source under any circumstances and won't pay under any circumstances don't believe in open source: They believe in other people doing work for them for free," and it looks like that's driving this decision more than anything else: an intent to leverage something of great value that they've given to the community.

It's hard to fault them for that.

If you want to know more, Spring has a FAQ on the maintenance policy changes online as well.

Published at DZone with permission of its author, Joseph Ottinger.

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)

Comments

Dimitris Menounos replied on Thu, 2008/09/25 - 5:29am

 Chris Kent

The point is that SpringSource won't be tagging the releases in the public repository except for the first 3 months.  So if you're building from source you won't be able to build a specific version because you won't have a tag and you won't know what date or revision to use.
 Andrew McVeigh
the tagging point is the big one. it's not like it's all in the repository, just waiting to be built. some information will be hidden.
 Marc Ende
The only point what's wrong with this maintenance policy is the tagging.

 

Hiding the tags is a necessity from a buisness perspective. Otherwise it would be too easy for a third party to simply checkout, compile and distribute ready made packages of those versions. 

This decission seems reasonable to me and I agree with Jeroen Wenting in that some people have a massive sense of entitlement and want everything for free. 

 

Chris Kent replied on Thu, 2008/09/25 - 7:58am in response to: Dimitris Menounos

I don't think it's fair to say that people who object to this have "a massive sense of entitlement" and imply they have no grounds for complaint.  I think what a lot of people don't like is having the rules changed in the middle of the game.

If the terms had always been the same then anyone thinking of using Spring could take those terms into account.  But a lot of people have invested a lot of effort into Spring on the assumption that it's a normal open source project and now they're stuck with paying for support or using a potentially out of date version. I think a lot of the resentment is caused by a feeling of having been slightly decieved.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the situation are I can't believe SpringSource didn't see this coming.  Or maybe they did but just decided there was more money to be made this way and they cared more about that than upsetting the community.

Dimitris Menounos replied on Thu, 2008/09/25 - 8:28am in response to: Chris Kent

@Chris

As far as I know: 

 

  • the license has not changed
  • all source code will remain open for everyone

 

 

I can't see how people draw the conclusion that Spring is now less open source than it was before. 

Marc Ende replied on Thu, 2008/09/25 - 8:29am in response to: Dimitris Menounos

Of course the decision ist reasonable from a point of view. But from other points not.

Spring was build with the help of the community in various ways. But to lock out the community after three months from tagged releases is (from my point of view) false. How shoud a user report an issue? Should he build a current version (HEAD) and say that with that revision he has got a problem? Great! How should the people fix that? They have to rely on the information from a user how he has build the spring jar.

What about security fixes? Enterprise-Users will get them using their subscription. Others have to build the source again with all problems that might result of checking out a HEAD. Great!

SpringSource has got many features in their Enterprise Spring which are only for Enterprise-Subscribers that's okay and that's also a way how OpenSource-Business works. But why the three month tagging which is completly unusual for such a business.

And don't misunderstood me: I'll pay for software when I have the need for a subscription or support. That's out of the question. But I dislike changing the rules within the game. 

 Btw: I have tested DI on a small project and, yes, it's great. You can change from one DI framework to another only changing a few lines.... ;)

Otengi Miloskov replied on Thu, 2008/09/25 - 8:41am

The technical aspects of Spring is not the problem is a great framework and portfolio but the problem here is the "dubious/uncertain" intentions of SS.

I try hard to figure out the intentions of SS but I don't have a damn clue. I want to help Rod and SS too but they don't let with their secrecy plans or I don't know exactly why they doing this. The Faq's doesn't say much really there are a lot of questions still.

I really hope Rod come to us and give us a plain and straight answer and inspire us like he did in his first book. He was one of us that could not stand the garbage J2EE was.

I don't want to comeback to EJB  but he is pushing us to do it, I don't see another option. I will miss the transactions and the JDBC Template and Spring Batch, SpringMVC( it was the coolest MVC framework to date) and well many more.

SS could charge us license fees to use Spring framework per developer or give us the tags or anything but don't let us in the uncertain.

Rod and SS, listen to your users please :-( (Just the tags please). 

Otengi Miloskov replied on Thu, 2008/09/25 - 8:56am in response to: Marc Ende

@Marc Ende, Yeah me too I already tested 3 IoC's: EJB3, Guice and Tapestry5 IoC. It just works.

I think many people will do it, The problem is for people that used more than the DI for example they used heavily the JDBC Template.

Otengi Miloskov replied on Thu, 2008/09/25 - 11:46am

I think with this article say why Spring Source is taking this actions:

http://www.mularien.com/blog/2008/09/19/how-open-source-is-spring-an-analytical-investigation/

The community didn't make a commit in a year so it is like there is no community so all this code is made by SS employees!!.

Think like this analogy, IntelliJ IDEA it is my IDE of choice and I contribute the way to recommend it to my collages and customers and I pay for a license and their customer pay for licenses but it is also for my benefit so it have widespread adoption and I'm getting an awesome product with bug fixes and maintenance but even with Spring it goes more forward it's opensource because I can get the source code somehow even without the tags but with Spring I have more freedom than say IntelliJ, Also I could modify the code for my private needs anytime.

Anyway there is not a single member outside of SS writing code to Spring and that is the Sad thing. We should not have a word to say something to Spring Source. I think Rod is right, everybody (including me because I didnt contribute to the Spring code, even I contribute using Spring also I use IntelliJ) just was using Spring for their own benefit and we just let SS do our laundry. 

Hmm... I think with this, Spring Source have the RIGHT to do whatever they want. I will just ask that please the charge for the subscription make it affordable for small business.

Peace Out.

Andy Jefferson replied on Thu, 2008/09/25 - 1:29pm

The community didn't make a commit in a year so it is like there is no community so all this code is made by SS employees!!.

This is typically the case for large numbers of open source projects actually not just Spring; you have a core group of committers and often nobody from "outside" ventures in, for their own reasons. Whether that core group is "employed" or simply motivated to a particular end obviously differs from project to project but the same situation exists.

Monetising an O/S project is always a problem, and nobody is going to be willing to pay until you have something stable, mature and unique so you get lean early year(s). And while the "community", as it terms itself, likes to think it is "contributing" much, in reality it is doing very little to aid in this monetisation (not committing code, not pushing the capabilities, typically not providing documentation - so not adding value). So a project has to force the issue if it is to reach its goal to pay back for those early years, whether that is just drop support for versions older than a particular age so it can focus on new developments, or change release policy to minimise its efforts to this "non-value-adding" part of the community. Somebody somewhere will be upset, but can't be avoided. The larger the community involved the bigger the upset. Of course the project (and company behind it) has the "right" to do it and, after all, they provided that very community with quality software which can still be used beyond the date of any such change. The software still works. It is still being developed. It's still under the same license, just that now they are restricted (in a small way) by what they have provided to them (for free).

And I do remember 2004 @ Interface21 and the sacrifices that Rod et al had to go through to get it all started, since I worked with them briefly during that time (and did get paid, thanks to them).

John Denver replied on Thu, 2008/09/25 - 9:22pm

I'm agree and we should contribute more to SS but actually today I found this article but this definitely make impossible to use Spring for small business:

http://www.ryandelaplante.com/rdelaplante/entry/the_cost_of_springsource_enterprise

So now the only way for the open source community or small business to use Spring is to use the opensource code without tags and just 3 months maintenece.

I really would like SS make it affordable if not this will kill it and I'll have to go to EJB3 or Guice or Tapestry5 to use just the IoC.

Jessica-aileen Alten replied on Fri, 2008/09/26 - 2:05am

This interview, $22.500, the following discussion and the debacle with Spring Security / JSF led me to a decision: I'll drop Spring out of my current projects and I'll never use it again.

So long, and thanks for all the fish.

Marc Ende replied on Fri, 2008/09/26 - 1:34am in response to: John Denver

$22.500 for a year, like mentioned in the blog. Now I understand SS: why having and supporting thousands of users when just a few hunderets are paying this amount on a yearly basis. With this in mind spring in a small or mid-sized business is definitively out of scope. Using other DIs, EJB3 or looking forward to EJB3.1 is also a way.

Marc Ende replied on Fri, 2008/09/26 - 1:44am

Just an idea to get out of the tagging stuff: Why sholudn't the community release binaries on their own.

There could be releases provided in binary form for example spring-ct-2.5.9. ct = community tagged.

I'm not sure if SS has anything against it. But it's a form where binary releases are available, people can work with releases and problems can be addressed properly. The other releases from spring are also good and should be considered as a basis for the ct's. SS can proof their releases for enterprise-ready state and the community can also do their tests.

 Just an idea...

Jeroen Wenting replied on Fri, 2008/09/26 - 4:05am in response to: Dimitris Menounos

[quote=agnus]

@Chris

As far as I know: 

 

  • the license has not changed
  • all source code will remain open for everyone

 

 

I can't see how people draw the conclusion that Spring is now less open source than it was before. 

[/quote]

Both are correct, but there are a lot of people out there who consider it "less open" if they don't get lifetime free support and free binaries of every daily built...

There is this massive sense of entitlement out there among many people, feeling that other people are not allowed to make a living from their work (but of course they themselves are so allowed).

Geertjan Wielenga replied on Fri, 2008/09/26 - 4:59am in response to: Jeroen Wenting

[quote=jwenting]

There is this massive sense of entitlement out there among many people, feeling that other people are not allowed to make a living from their work (but of course they themselves are so allowed).

[/quote]

 

The sense of entitlement comes from being told that something is free and then, after committing to it, being told that it is no longer as free as originally promised.

Joseph Ottinger replied on Fri, 2008/09/26 - 6:25am

Well... at the risk of seeming just a bit of a jerk:

If you didn't see this sort of thing coming years ago, shame on you.

SpringSource isn't jacking you. They're monetizing a very valuable resource, one that doesn't lose its value through the monetization; if they continue to offer you a carrot for free, there's less value for them.

If you hitched your fortunes to Spring and now feel betrayed... get a grip. Anyone who knew EJB back when Rod first wrote "J2EE without EJB" should have seen this day coming, and understood it.

Sure, it's been a long time; sure, we're used to the idea of Spring being this free ride; sure, we're hooked now. But we should have known. Some of us did - not me, mind you, although I could see this as a potential occurrence - but some did.

Get over it. Spring isn't losing its value; if anything, SpringSource is trying to encourage its own growth. If you ninnyhammers had a clue, you'd see that as a good thing.

As far as commits to Spring being from within SpringSource, that makes sense: they hired the people who did the most for Spring. 

From my blog: "Hey, JBoss? Two words: duhhhhhhhh":

Rich Sharples pointed out that a lot of the JBoss committers are previous customers, as part of a challenge to Douglas Dooley. Rich... of course they are. That's a good thing, of course, because it means the JBoss community is open to listening to its users in the best possible way, but... I'm sorry, but "duhhhhh." Your users are naturally going to be the people who are most invested in your product, and are going to have the most expertise. They're the natural place to draw your committers from. This isn't worth pointing out.

In this case, go one farther: SpringSource brought the people who'd done the most for them in.

Good for them. Heck, wish I was one of them. C'est la vie. 

Otengi Miloskov replied on Fri, 2008/09/26 - 6:43am

New book J2EE development without Spring, ROFL. check this humor article:

http://blog.mediasoft.be/new-book-j2ee-development-without-spring/

Otengi Miloskov replied on Fri, 2008/09/26 - 6:53am

Bah this is getting more bad of what I thought, Many people now begin to say Spring Source is now controlled by the Venture Capitalists.

I belived that Spring Source need more the community with my last post but It seems this is not even controlled anymore by Rod Johnson.

Anyway it was good all this years with Spring, But I will have to say Good Bye to Spring.

Andrew McVeigh replied on Fri, 2008/09/26 - 8:16am in response to: Joseph Ottinger

If you didn't see this sort of thing coming years ago, shame on you.

...

But we should have known. Some of us did - not me, mind you,

So you didn't see it coming, but you still rag on the people who didn't either? What are you trying to say? That you are calling yourself clueless? Who saw this coming?

Anyone who knew EJB back when Rod first wrote "J2EE without EJB" should have seen this day coming, and understood it.

Hmm, this is another silly statement. Are we supposed to expect that all open source projects will do something like this? Is open source just a way to hook people until they can't move away, and then you can monetise them. This seems to be the logical conclusion of your argument.

(I worked with Rod just after that, and I didn't see it coming)

I find your comments far more offensive than Rod and SpringSource's actions. At least they are trying to find a compromise. You seem to be implying that anyone who has any sort of issue with the changes is an idiot. And by your own words that also includes you?!?!

Andrew

David Lee replied on Fri, 2008/09/26 - 8:47am

Someone from my office called for pricing and the support contracts seem to be very expensive. 

Is anyone on this board willing to pay for Spring support ? Does anyone on this board already pay for support ?  If so, do you think or has it been money well spent ?

 

 

 

 

 

Andrew McVeigh replied on Fri, 2008/09/26 - 8:56am in response to: David Lee

Is anyone on this board willing to pay for Spring support ? Does anyone on this board already pay for support ?

I worked at a large bank last year that enquired as to the SS support costs for their project.  It was a large-ish project ($X0m), but they found the costs too expensive.  I guess they sort of were, but compared to the money that was being shelled out on consultants and Websphere, it was probably very small beer.

Regardless, it shows the types of hurdles that SS are going to have to overcome.  Most senior managers on a project of that size would not even know they used Spring internally.  It's largely hidden, and has the status of a library.  For things like appservers, it's a tangible thing than mgrs can see and (sort of) understand.  Hence, they'll pay.  Particularly if it comes from IBM which sort of still has an aura of complete enterprise credibility about it.

Andrew

Joseph Ottinger replied on Fri, 2008/09/26 - 8:57am in response to: Andrew McVeigh

Andrew, I'm complimenting the people who saw it clearly. I said that I saw the possibility of something like this, because people were flocking to Spring en masse, tying their fortunes to something controlled by a single entity.

As far as calling myself clueless: *shrug* I don't know, I'm not the one to judge my own cluelessness. If I was indeed clueless, I probably wouldn't realise it. I'm willing to bear that.

As far as "are we supposed to expect all open source projects to do this..." You're extrapolating meaning out of what I said, meaning that doesn't actually logically follow.

It's basic economic theory. When you have a resource controlled by a select few, yet consumed by everyone, the consumer has to know that the producer has a lot of power - and if the producer has a need, then it makes sense that the producer would exercise that power.

Do I have issue with the changes? Sure, I think that SpringSource is slightly changing the rules mid-game, and they have created a resource, telling everyone to use it like mad, and now they're exercising the power that gives them.

I don't like it. I understand it from both sides, though, and I can see their point.

As far as "anyone having issue with the changes being an idiot..." nah. But then again, people who cried that Spring was the messiah delivering us from the evil J2EE - and who have issues with the messiah wanting something in return - well... I don't know that "idiot" is the word I'd use, it's awfully strong.

But they should have seen it coming, in one form or another.

I bought into Spring recently, having resisted it in favor of the J2EE specifications (and therefore, primarily doing resource acquisition instead of dependency injection) because I didn't want a single company's decisions forcing me to do something.

(And yes, I know, I was still allowing a single company to make decisions, but at least it had to pretend to be a consortium... hold on while I adjust my rose-colored glasses.)

With their support of annotations and namespaces, though, I finally accepted that Spring was too useful not to rely on; so there I am.

Rod & co. aren't finding a compromise - they've made a decision and they're sticking to it. Me, I'm just watching and observing. 

Andrew McVeigh replied on Fri, 2008/09/26 - 9:18am in response to: Joseph Ottinger

...because people were flocking to Spring en masse, tying their fortunes to something controlled by a single entity.

It's a fair point, but people weren't really seeing it that way. Spring was just the thing tying all the bits together. Initially, it billed itself as being almost "not there".

There are so many other things in the stack anyway: Tomcat or any app server, JMS + providers, JDBC drivers from Oracle, Hibernate, Struts, Velocity etc etc. Should we have to watch out for each of these also?

From my perspective, i expected Rod and SS to sell the trademarks etc to a big vendor. Heck -- that seemed to be the dream of every startup in that space (both open source and closed): JBoss, Tangosol, Hibernate, Solarmetric, others. I expected a large organisation to acquire the rights, but for the libraries to stay free. Seems Rod had more ambition than that, but that ambition comes with a cost as we are now seeing.

But then again, people who cried that Spring was the messiah delivering us from the evil J2EE...

Yes, that's a fan-boi position. It's just a set of libraries and techniques.

With their support of annotations and namespaces, though, I finally accepted that Spring was too useful not to rely on; so there I am.

It's useful to be sure, but not indispensible. I believe the primary benefit was showing us that EJB1 & 2.x were really, really horribly complex and awful. It offered a simple alternative. I've got to give Rod serious kudos for that -- in many ways, EJB and the associated infrastructure was the worst system i had ever seen for "accidental complexity". Now that the benefits have been shown and the concepts have been pushed into other products (Guice, EJB3 etc etc), how elastic is the demand relative to the pricing model?

If i was starting a new JEE-based project, i'd definitely use glassfish. EJB3 seems nice enough for my liking. Either way, you could just combine it with a simple configuration strategy to get the IoC.

Rod & co. aren't finding a compromise - they've made a decision and they're sticking to it.

Well, yes. I was referring to them making a compromise between making the source closed and generating profits. They are keeping it open still, but losing meta-data to force the profits. I wonder where it will lead...

Andrew

Marcel Overdijk replied on Fri, 2008/09/26 - 10:01am in response to: Geertjan Wielenga

[quote=geertjan]

Like I suggested: an enterprise vs. light packaging scenario. Make people pay for the extra pieces, i.e., those pieces that large enterprises would have no problem paying for but which the small dev shops can reasonably afford to do without while not feeling abandoned.

[/quote]

I totally agree on this point. When you pay you get more (special features, better support, etc), but don't take the community away what you were giving them for years!

Not setting the plublic repository could also lead to a lot of confusion in the future and hurt the Spring framework a lot. Imagine 3th parties creating community builds of Spring (by guessing which sources to put in a build). If these community builds cause problems (bugs because of wrong sources taken in) a lot of people will simply say "Spring fucked up".

 

Jeroen Wenting replied on Mon, 2008/09/29 - 12:18am in response to: David Lee

[quote=sybrix]

Someone from my office called for pricing and the support contracts seem to be very expensive. 

Is anyone on this board willing to pay for Spring support ? Does anyone on this board already pay for support ?  If so, do you think or has it been money well spent ?

[/quote]

I worked for large financials a few years ago. At those companies we knew it was pointless to come up with a request for buying something if the cost was LESS than something like €10.000. In the mindset of the people controlling budgets there if something is cheap it's no good, which was reflected everywhere.
What in fact best described the selection process for hardware and software at one of them was: if IBM sells it, buy it. If not, buy the most expensive.

I also talked to sales people from Borland (and several others) about the excessively high price for their products. They flatly told me that they'd tried lower prices but sold LESS units at those lower prices than they did at high prices.
Historically this is correct. When British Airways introduced Concorde service at prices some 10% higher than regular service noone bought tickets. When they raised prices to roughly 5 times the normal price they couldn't fly the birds often enough to keep up with demand.

Were I using Spring in a large (or large number) of applications, and the cost of not having support were higher than the cost of having it, I'd get it.
As it is that's not the case for me, but were I working on a multimillion Euro project using Spring extensively it probably would be worth the cost.

Springsource are clearly targetting their support at the "Enterprise". Though this is not a very smart move (the number of customers is very small and they're very hard to get a foot in the door there) it's a popular one as you can potentially generate a lot of income from a very small number of accounts (thus with a small number of people).
If you didn't see that coming you were blind, as the prices for their training and seminars/conferences for years has been high.

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