On Friday, January 11th, 2013, the girlfriend of 26-year old Aaron Swartz discovered that he had hanged himself in his Brooklyn apartment. The Internet and social media sphere was quickly flooded with expressions of grief and outrage.
Who Was Aaron Swartz?Aaron Swartz was an amazing visionary and activist who created tools and movements to empower, inform, and mobilize people. He was involved in developing and contributing to many of the tools upon which information sharing on the Internet are based, including Really Simple Syndication (RSS), the XML content type for the Resource Description Framework (RDF) of the W3C, and Web.py (a lightweight Web framework developed in Python).
He built Infogami (a Wiki application framework built on Web.py), which he used to launch a business that he merged with Reddit, which was, in turn, sold to Conde Nast. He used that same framework to build the architecture for the Open Library, a project to create “one Web page for every book ever published,” which now houses 20 million book records and 1 million e-books. He was one of the major creators of and contributors to Archive.org. He collaborated with his mentor, Lawrence Lessig, in the creation of the framework for Creative Commons’ licensing.
In an incredibly moving interview with Amy Goodwin on Democracy Now, Larry Lessig summed up a few of Aaron’s contributions this way: