Aaron Swartz

Aaron Swartz bigraphy, stories - American computer programmer and writer

Aaron Swartz : biography

08 November 1986 – 11 January 2013

Aaron Hillel Swartz (November 8, 1986 – January 11, 2013) was an American computer programmer, writer, political organizer and Internet activist. Swartz was involved in the development of the web feed format RSS, the organization Creative Commons, the website framework web.py and the social news site Reddit. In 2013, he was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame. from the Internet Hall of Fame.

Swartz became an equal partner in Reddit after its merger with his company, Infogami. His later work focused on sociology, civic awareness and activism. In 2010, he became a research fellow at Harvard University’s Edmond J. Safra Research Lab on Institutional Corruption, directed by Lawrence Lessig. He founded the online group Demand Progress, known for its campaign against the Stop Online Piracy Act.

On January 6, 2011, Swartz was arrested by MIT police on state breaking-and-entering charges, after systematically downloading academic journal articles from JSTOR. Federal prosecutors later charged him with two counts of wire fraud and 11 violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, carrying a cumulative maximum penalty of $1 million in fines, 35 years in prison, asset forfeiture, restitution and supervised release.

On January 11, 2013, two years after his initial arrest, Swartz was found dead in his Crown Heights, Brooklyn apartment, where he had hanged http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/hang#Usage_notes MNEMONIC DEVICE: Pictures are hung. Both women and men are hanged (at least in this context.)–>himself.

Life and works

Swartz was born in Chicago, Illinois, the eldest son of Susan and Robert Swartz. His father had founded the software firm Mark Williams Company. Swartz immersed himself in the study of computers, programming, the Internet, and Internet culture. He attended North Shore Country Day School, a small private school near Chicago, until 9th grade. Swartz left high school in 10th grade, and enrolled in courses at a Chicago area college.

At age 13, Swartz won the ArsDigita Prize, a competition for young people who create “useful, educational, and collaborative” non-commercial websites. At age 14, he became a member of the working group that authored the RSS 1.0 web syndication specification.


In 2001 Swartz joined the RDFCore working group at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), where he authored RFC 3870, Application/RDF+XML Media Type Registration. The document described a new media type, “RDF/XML”, designed to support the Semantic Web.


Swartz was co-creator, with John Gruber, of Markdown, a simplified markup standard derived from HTML, and author of its html2text translator. Markdown remains in widespread use.

Infogami, Reddit, Jottit

Swartz attended Stanford University. After the summer of his freshman year, he attended Y Combinator’s first Summer Founders Program where he started the software company Infogami. Infogami’s wiki platform was used to support the Internet Archive’s Open Library project and the web.py web framework that Swartz had created, but he felt he needed co-founders to proceed further. Y-Combinator organizers suggested that Infogami merge with Reddit, which it did in November 2005. Reddit at first found it difficult to make money from the project, but the site later gained in popularity, with millions of users visiting it each month.

In October 2006, Reddit was acquired by Condé Nast Publications, the owner of Wired magazine. Swartz moved with his company to San Francisco to work on Wired. Swartz found office life uncongenial, and he ultimately left the company.

In September 2007, Swartz joined with Simon Carstensen to launch Jottit.


In 2008 Swartz founded Watchdog.net, “the good government site with teeth,” to aggregate and visualize data about politicians. In the same year, he wrote a widely circulated Open Access Guerilla Manifesto.

In 2010, Swartz co-founded Demand Progress, a political advocacy group that organizes people online to “take action by contacting Congress and other leaders, funding pressure tactics, and spreading the word” about civil liberties, government reform, and other issues.