Diaspora Co-founder Found Dead

Diaspora, the open source social network designed to give a “privacy conscious” alternative to Facebook has lost one of its creators, just hours after a new version of the site was released.

New York University student Ilya Zhitomirskiy, aged 22,was found dead on Saturday just after a redesigned alpha version of Diaspora was released. The cause of his death has not yet been made public.

Talented Young Nerds

Diaspora was founded by Zhitomirskiy along with three friends, Dan Grippi, Maxwell Salzberg and Raphael Sofaer, last year as a response to the changes made to Facebook’s privacy policy and comments made by CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

The group dubbed themselves “talented young nerds” and set themselves a target of raising $10,000 (£6.300) to construct an open-source, privacy-conscious social network as an alternative to Facebook, which would give users greater control over their personal information.

The support received greatly exceeded this target and the group raised $200,000 (£126,000) in donations. They began coding last summer and released the source code in September 2010 with the intention of making Diaspora a community project.

Upon its release, Diaspora allowed users to share information such as status and photos and permitted the sharing of data with other social networks such as Twitter, Tumblr and even Facebook. However Diaspora’s structure is decentralised, allowing users to set up their own servers to store their data.

“We live our real lives in context, speaking from whatever aspect of ourselves that those around us know,” Diaspora’s blog said at the time, “Social tools should work the same way. Getting the source into the hands of developers is our first experiment in making a simple and functional tool for contextual sharing. Diaspora is in its infancy, but our initial ideas are there.”

Steve McCaskill

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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