Ilya Zhitomirskiy, Diaspora Co-Founder, Dies at 22

 @redletterdave
on November 14 2011 9:40 AM

UPDATE (4:33 p.m.): CNN Money and the San Francisco Police Department confirm that Zhitomirskiy's cause of death was suicide. Police reports say officers responded to phone calls about a possible suicide, and arrived at the 700 block of Treat Avenue around 8:10 p.m. Saturday. The case has been referred to the medical examiner's office, where the coroner will determine Zhitomirskiy's cause of death, which could take several weeks.

Ilya Zhitomirskiy, one of the four co-founders of Diaspora, an open source social network based in New York has died. The cause and date of his death have not yet been reported, but the company has confirmed his death. Zhitomirskiy was 22.

Zhitomirskiy founded the project with three other students at New York University's Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, including Dan Grippi, Maxwell Zalsberg and Raphael Sofaer, in April 2010. Angered by significant privacy changes made to Facebook earlier that year, the four students wanted a social network that didn't force people to surrender their privacy, so they created Diaspora, an open-source alternative to Facebook.

So many people think it needs to exist, Salzberg said in a May 2010 interview. We're making it because we want to use it.

Diaspora took to online fundraising website Kickstarter with hopes to raise $10,000. The start-up exceeded  its goal, raising over $100,000 in donations. By far the most surprising donor to the project was none other than the founder and CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg.

I donated, Zuckerberg said. I think it is a cool idea.

Diaspora officially released its code on Sept. 15, 2010. In a little more than a year, the company has added several important features, including direct messages, status update Like buttons, a notifications channel, and an ability to follow hashtags. If users don't want to start their social networks from scratch, they can opt to link in their Facebook account information and build from there. Users can also syndicate their updates on Diaspora to Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.

The service also recently launched support for its first application, Cubbi.es, which works in tandem with a Firefox or Chrome extension that lets users post photos they find on the Internet.

Now that a co-founder has died, the company vows to push forward with its goal of creating a decentralizing social network that lets you be yourself and share however you want, with or without your real name.

Diaspora has raised more than $200,000 in donations to date.

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