It’s odd to read about the very unfortunate passing of a young man who has literally changed the face of the internet and free culture. Aaron Swartz, a young man at the age of 26, committed suicide in his Brooklyn apartment on Friday. I didn’t know him personally but a lot of what he invented, created, and pushed for on the internet directly affects me and my work.
He was a child prodigy, lending his efforts at the age of 14 to the RSS 1.0 specification and then later to the founding of Reddit. He contributed to a number of internet staple websites like Wikipedia and was actively involved in the creation of the Creative Commons. He has friends in just about every major corner of the internet and judging by the amount of tribute posts coming out since Friday, it’s safe to say he is well-missed.
While Swartz suffered from depression many people believe that what drove him to this terrible ending was the Department of Justice’s vindicative prosecution of his “crimes” of “hacking” into JSTOR and releasing files in the public domain to the masses. He was an internet activist, most well-known for stopping SOPA earlier last year with DemandProgress. He basically fought for internet freedom by rallying people for the cause. He was a noble individual it seems and it’s truly moving to read the many posts about him since Friday (Cory Doctorow’s is especially poignant).
There’s a remembrance page dedicated to him here if you want to read up on some of the ways he’s changed people’s lives.