The coder, activist, and open-access advocate Aaron Swartz died 11 January 2013 by his own hand. From the age of 13, when he won a prize given to youth who created non-commercial Web sites that were “useful, educational, and collaborative,” Swartz dedicated his life to writing code and sites that allowed information to flow more freely and advocating successfully against efforts to restrict access.
Swartz provided the code and technical underpinnings for Creative Commons at its formation, joined the founders of Reddit early on and created the software to run it in its early days (which he later released into the public domain), built Open Library with the Internet Archive, and founded Demand Progress, one of the groups instrumental in rallying support against SOPA and PIPA copyright legislation. Swartz also worked on RSS 1.0 (not the original RSS developed by Netscape and adapted and popularized by Dave Winer that resulted in RSS 2.0), which led him to help put together the Resource Description Framework (RDF) specification at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
More recently, Swartz became a vociferous advocate of freeing information from behind paywalls that was outside copyright protection or that he thought should be outside such protection, including court records and, more controversially, academic articles. His latter effort led to federal computer crime charges that were unresolved at his death. A trial was slated for April 2013, and could have led to years in prison.
Swartz is remembered not just for each of these and many other projects he was involved with, even though most have significance in the evolution of the Internet. On top of his contributions to the public good, he will also be remembered for his early genius, his keen insight, his warmth, and his generosity. BoingBoing has assembled an ongoing collection of tributes to and articles about Swartz, including a remembrance by one of its editors, Cory Doctorow, who was one of Swartz’s friends.
Unless otherwise noted, this article is copyright © 2013 TidBITS Publishing, Inc.Published in TidBITS on 2013-01-14.
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