Ilya Zhitomirskiy, who co-founded the social networking site Diaspora* — a Facebook alternative, developed in 2010 by New York University students using contributions from Kickstarter — has died, aged 22.
Officer Albie Esparza of the San Francisco Police Department told ABC News that Zhitomirskiy's death was "a possible suicide," although the San Francisco medical examiner's office would not confirm that.
The Diaspora* home page featured a tribute to Zhitomirskiy overnight Monday.
The Washington Post Peter quoted Schurman, a Diaspora* spokesman, as saying:
"Ilya was a great guy. He was a visionary, he was a co-founder of a company that hopes to bring a better social networking experience. We are all very sad that he is gone. It is a huge loss for all of us, including his family."
Zhitomirskiy co-founded Diaspora* — which lets users keep control over their photos, videos and status updates while sharing them with friends — with Raphael Sofaer, Dan Grippi, and Max Salzber.
The group raised more than $200,000 for the project through Kickstarter, which bills itself as "a funding platform for artists, designers, filmmakers, musicians, journalists, inventors, explorers" and the like.
Zhitomirskiy, described as a hardcore computer programmer, had been quoted saying that he wanted social network users to migrate to websites that were more transparent about privacy policies.
Despite their desire to compete with Facebook, the company's founder Mark Zuckerberg praised the group, telling Wired last year: "I think it is cool people are trying to do it." Zuckerberg donated money to the group during the Kickstarter fundraiser.
According to Zhitomirskiy's profile on Diaspora*, he was "super passionate about building a world of hacker spaces, maker culture, sharing, cycling, and life satisfaction."
Zhitomirskiy described himself on his Twitter account as a "free culture and open web enthusiast. Now one of the four Diaspora* bros."
His death was originally reported by the popular tech news blog TechCrunch.