The Internet is in mourning today after the apparent suicide of 26-year-old programmer and activist Aaron Swartz, who among his many contributions to the Web helped to pioneer RSS and was instrumental in building the wildly popular Reddit community.
Swartz is reported to have struggled with depression for years, eventually taking his own life two years to the day after an arrest by MIT campus police for gaining illegal access to JSTOR's library catalog and downloading millions of files. While there are no confirmed reports, in some online remembrances, friends have speculated the impending legal charges and possible jail time from the JSTOR incident may have contributed to the tragic suicide.
Much of Swartz's short life was dedicated to the free and open access of information. Swartz led efforts to give free access to the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER), a library of federal judicial documents. He was also an active participant in the SOPA fight for Internet freedom through Demand Progress, a group he cofounded.
To honor the man who gave much of his life to the advancement of the Web, thousands have paid tribute to Swartz through Twitter or on individual sites like public.resource, which has gone dark for Swartz.
There is no way to express this sadness. @aaronsw RIP.— Lessig (@lessig) Jan. 12, 2013
Aaron dead.World wanderers, we have lost a wise elder.Hackers for right, we are one down.Parents all, we have lost a child. Let us weep.— Tim Berners-Lee (@timberners_lee) Jan. 12, 2013