Aaron Swartz was indeed the Internet’s Own Boy. A Harvard Fellow and wunderkind, he was also co-creator of Reddit, RSS feeds (which underpin email newsletters and blog subscriptions), and Creative Commons licensing. He lived and breathed the concept that information wants to be free, and he used his coder skills to make it free and easily shareable for everyone.
The List summed him up aptly as the incarnation of a certain kind of digerati, one oft-overlooked in a money-focused world:
As digital culture matures, stories about its innovators and pioneers proliferate, preparing to become its myths. What adds nuance is the fact that these entrepreneurs were not the thrusting alpha males who went into space, invented modern advertising, or fired up Wall Street; rather, they were awkward kids, possessed of limited social power, not particularly driven by money or sex, and anti-establishment by inclination.
Swartz was arrested and indicted January 6, 2011 for downloading academic papers from MIT. The university itself declined to press charges, but that didn’t stop the prosecutor, who hit him with two counts of internet fraud and 11 counts of violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, with a cumulative possible total of a $1 million fine and 35 years in prison, and the lifelong label of “Felon.”
Aaron Swartz committed suicide on January 11.
This is his story.
Image by Quinn Norton on Flickr