Ilya Zhitomirskiy, one of four co-founders of the Diaspora social network, has died at the far-too-young age of 22, reports TechCrunch. The details of Zhitomirskiy’s death have not yet been made public.
UPDATE: According to CNN, the San Francisco Police Department believes Zhitomirskiy committed suicide, though that is awaiting confirmation from the medical examiner’s office.
“In this case it appears to be a suicide,” said SFPD officer Alva Esparza. “However, the medical examiner’s office will make the final decision” based on their tests.
Diaspora, which is currently in alpha testing mode and unavailable to those without an invite, is the brainchild of four New York University students: Zhitomirskiy, Maxwell Salzberg, Daniel Grippi, and Raphael Sofaer. A kind of anti-Facebook, Diaspora allows users to create profiles with or without their real name. (Facebook requires the use of real names, as does Google+, though Google has vowed to change this stipulation.)
In addition, Diaspora is decentralized, which means that you connect to one set of servers that operate independently from the other Diaspora servers, rather than connecting to a central hub of servers, as is the case with other social networks. And all user profiles are automatically set to private, and can be made more public if a user so chooses.
As with Circles in Google+ and Facebook lists, Diaspora lets users create groups of friends, called “aspects,” and users can share some content with one aspect of friends, while not sharing with other aspects. Diaspora users also have full ownership of the content they post to Diaspora, including photos and other personal data, which can be easily downloaded in an .xml file.
While Diaspora remains in alpha invite-only mode, the company has allowed more users to join following the death of Zhitomirskiy. The timing of this appears to be entirely coincidental. Those who attempt to sign up now will still have to wait to receive an invite.
The untimely death of Zhitomirskiy is staggeringly sad. Our hearts, along with those in the rest of the tech community, go out to his friends and family.
This article has been edited for clarity