Ilya Zhitomirskiy, the 22-year-old co-founder of Diaspora, was found dead on Saturday in what the San Francisco Police Department is calling an apparent suicide. The coroner will determine Zhitomirskiy's exact cause of death within the next several weeks.
Zhitomirskiy founded Diaspora with three other students, Dan Grippi, Maxwell Zalsberg and Raphael Sofaer, at New York University in April 2010. The foursome thought up an idea for an open-source alternative to Facebook, as they were angered at the lack of privacy Facebook subjects its users to.
The History of Disapora
Looking to make $10,000 for the start-up company, Diaspora began fund-raising efforts on Kickstarter and raised over $100,000 in donations, one of which was from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
I think it is a cool idea, Zuckerberg reportedly said.
Diaspora is marketed as being safe from corporations, advertisers and other threats to users' privacy on social networks, as it is not owned by any particular entity.
Our distributed design means no big corporation will ever control Diaspora. Diaspora will never sell your social life to advertisers, and you won't have to conform to someone's arbitrary rules or look over your shoulder before you speak, the developers said in September.
Diaspora means the movement, migration, or scattering of people away from an established or ancestral homeland, according to Merriam Webster.
What's Next for Diaspora?
In wake of the co-founder's death, Diaspora is planning to popularize the decentralizing social network that lets you be yourself and share however you want, with or without your real name.
On Sunday, the company sent out a round of invites to its alpha version just before word of Zhitomirskiy's death broke.
While it sent out the first round of invites in September 2010, Diaspora has since adopted new features like a hashtag following, direct messages, status updates, like buttons and notifications. Diaspora is also synced with an application known as Cubbi.es, which allows users to instantly post photos from all over the Internet by holding down shift and clicking any image.
To create a Diaspora account, users can build a profile from nothing or import their name, photos and posts directly from their Facebook account. Users are part of independently hosted servers with linked fellow users in friend circles called aspects, rather than one large web that connects everyone.
In fact, while most people consider Diaspora a threat to Facebook, similar to when Google+ launched, Diaspora has integration capabilities that make it an open-source complement Facebook or a solution to the problems Facebook presents, rather than a contender for social network domination.
Currently, the company has raised more than $200,000 in donations.