Aaron Swartz, a computer programmer and ardent internet activist who played a key role opposing 2011 anti-piracy legislation, was found dead on Friday at age 26.
His family confirmed that he hanged himself in his apartment in Brooklyn, New York.
Friends and fans of Mr Swartz’ work flooded social media feeds and web sites over the weekend with grief-stricken tributes to a coder they considered a “genius” and a “hero”. Many offered lengthy defenses of his activist work to make legal and academic documents available for free online – work that garnered the attention of government prosecutors and led to criminal charges still outstanding at the time of his death.
“I’m so sorry for Aaron, and sorry about Aaron,” said friend Cory Doctorow in a blog post. “We have all lost someone today who had more work to do, and who made the world a better place when he did it.”
When he was 14, Mr Swartz helped develop the code for RSS, the online tool that allows internet users to subscribe to news and other web content. He was also an early builder of Reddit, the popular news and information site.