Remembering Aaron Swartz (1986–2013)

Translate this post

Aaron Swartz at a Boston Wikipedia meetup in 2009. Photo by Sage Ross, CC BY-SA 2.0.

Aaron Swartz was found dead in his New York apartment Friday, an apparent suicide. Aaron was a prolific hacker and a free culture activist. He was also a Wikipedian. Today, the Internet community at large is reeling from Aaron’s early death, and Wikimedia is joining in remembering an extraordinary individual.
In 2000, as a 13-year-old, he was the youngest finalist in a teen website competition with his project “The Info Network”, an online encyclopedia inviting anyone to contribute their knowledge. Aaron would later recall that while he was not able to find enough contributors for his first web site, “luckily, several years later, my mother pointed me to this new site called ‘Wikipedia’ that was doing the same thing.”
At age 14, Aaron co-authored RSS 1.0, an important web standard. Later he founded Infogami, a startup which would merge with Reddit, which today is one of the most influential social news sites. He led the development of the Open Library, a project launched by the non-profit Internet Archive in 2007 with the aim of offering “one web page for every book”, integrating user contributions through a wiki interface.
In 2003 he started editing Wikipedia. His userpage lists more than 200 articles he started or contributed a large amount of content to. His most recent edit was on Thursday, January 10.
In 2006, he was a candidate for the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees, which in part is elected by the Wikimedia community. It was during that time that he wrote a series of essays about Wikipedia, sharing his concerns, hopes and dreams for the project’s future.
This included “Who writes Wikipedia”, which proposed that the role of casual contributors to the encyclopedia is often severely underestimated, and that protecting the encyclopedia’s fundamentally open nature was critical to its future. “If Wikipedia continues down this path of focusing on the encyclopedia at the expense of the wiki, it might end up not being much of either,” Aaron wrote. His essay triggered a debate and research that continues to this day.
In recent years, Aaron’s focus was on online activism. He believed strongly that the freedoms that we take for granted online are constantly under threat and need to be defended. To this end, he co-founded Demand Progress, and was one of the leaders in the grass-roots campaign against legislation known as SOPA and PIPA, a campaign which Wikipedia participated in through the 2012 Wikipedia blackout. Aaron’s keynote at the Freedom to Connect conference in 2012 re-tells the important story of how SOPA and PIPA were ultimately defeated.
Aaron also strongly believed that the public should have free access to the laws that govern it, and to publicly funded scholarship and scientific research. In 2011, he was indicted for allegedly breaking into MIT’s network to download large amounts of scholarly materials.
Family, friends and those close to the case have raised questions about the fervor and zeal with which Aaron was pursued — Lawrence Lessig’s post “Prosecutor as bully” provides some important background, as does expert witness Alex Stamos’ summary.
Whatever caused Aaron to take his own life, it is a shocking and painful loss of an extraordinary individual who has touched so many through his ideas and actions. His friends and family have started an online memorial to share remembrance stories, and Wikipedians are also leaving comments on his talk page. We join them in remembering Aaron Swartz, a beautiful human being.
Further reading:

Archive notice: This is an archived post from, which operated under different editorial and content guidelines than Diff.

Can you help us translate this article?

In order for this article to reach as many people as possible we would like your help. Can you translate this article to get the message out?

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments


How sad. Rip.

very sad, indeed!

He shall be missed

At such a young age he bagged a lot of achievements, i just wonder what more he would have done if had not left the world so early.
RIP Aaron Swartz
You inspired a lot of people in the world and your work will keep inspiring the coming generations.

Dear Aaron,
Death can only conquer the physical body, but cannot kill the spirit & the ideals you shared in your life. I didn’t knew you personally, but I got shocked when I heard about your suicide. May your soul rest in peace.

RIP Aaron

Rest in Peace Aaron Swartz. Thank you for everything you’ve done.

A true gentleman!

Sad .. RIP Aaron ..

The Internet Archive also has two collections of materials related to him, and an application to add remembrances to it:

Petition the Obama administration to:
Remove United States District Attorney Carmen Ortiz from office for overreach in the case of Aaron Swartz

We have lost a human treasure—invaluable—irreplaceable.

[…] 11 січня 2013 року світовий рух за вільні знання поніс велику втрату – покінчив самогубством Аарон Шварц – американський програміст, публіцист, інтернет-активіст, співзасновник проекту Reddit,  повідомляє блог Wikimedia Foundation […]


God bless you RIP <3

Aaron, you’re a big reason that the internet is what it is today. Thank you and RIP, man. You were remarkable in life and will be missed.

Everyone in the Wikipedia community and the greater free content community should know that there are resources if you have suicidal feelings or thoughts.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the United States, 1-800-273-TALK, is a 24-hour service that can connect you with a crisis center in your area. It’s confidential and free.
Their Web site, , has a Web-based chat program that some people who prefer typing to talking might like instead.

For non-US Wikipedians, has a list of crisis centres world-wide.

[…] scrive questo bellissimo pezzo. Lawrence Lessig questo. Il NYT questo. La Wikimedia Foundation questo. Lo stesso Aaron ha parlato di sè e della propria depressione […]

Also: we need to add a prominent link to suicide prevention resources at the top of the page.
See for discussion.

RIP Aaron

Rest in peace, Aaron!

Dear Aaron,
We will miss u for sure. You contributions to the world are so worthy. very sad to hear about your demise. RIP.

[…] ha collaborato alla fondazione di Creative Commons e nel 2003 ha sostenuto la “crescita” di Wikipedia, che aveva realizzato un progetto simile a quello che lui stesso concepì con qualche anno […]

[…] uno dei proprietari, (comprando delle azioni, semplice no?). Un breve riassunto lo trovate a questo link. Riassumo ancora di […]

RIP Aaron

RIP Aaron, definately an extra-ordinary Mind. Great loss of Nation…..

[…] his public career. You can read rememberences by many of them, including Wikimedia deputy director Erik Moeller (once the winner of a Wikimedia Foundation board election Swartz contested), Wikimedia board member […]

Over 25 years ago, my brother took his life in the same way. An absolutely selfish and cowardly act. Way to go, Aaron! Rest in peace while your loved ones deeply grieve and question your actions and their own for the rest of their lives.

[…] politique et le droit et s’est levé pour ses convictions »., des académiciens ou la fondation Wikimedia ont également rendu hommage au jeune […]

Thank you and RIP mighty Aaron 🙂

He took library documents and sent copies into the web witthout authorization? He shared public information to people around the world, for no personal gain? Wow, doing that would be crazy!

“His most recent edit was on Thursday, January 10.” — Year?

RIP and i called him webman

very sad!

OMG! Seriously, it’s really sad to hear that! RIP 🙁

RIP Aaron, you will continue to live in our hearts

He shall be missed

At such a young age he bagged a lot of achievements, i just wonder what more he would have done if had not left the world so early.
RIP Aaron Swartz
You inspired a lot of people in the world and your work will keep inspiring the coming generations.

Aaron Swartz is an inspiration for young generation. He contributed a lot to tech community. Reddit is still one of best place to get valuable information.