Diaspora co-founder Ilya Zhitomirskiy dead at 22

Ilya Zhitomirskiy, one of the co-founders of social network Diaspora*, died suddenly on Saturday, multiple media outlets have confirmed. According to a Saturday report from TechCrunch, cause of death has not yet been confirmed.

Diaspora*, a project founded last year by Zhitomirskiy and three of his fellow students from New York University, is a social network with privacy at its heart. An open-source project, the network lets users make their own social graph or build off connections from their existing accounts on Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook. Data on the network is completely decentralized and controlled by the user. It started after privacy changes at Facebook had several users looking for an alternative.

The company raised an impressive round of funding with donors including venture capitalist Fred Wilson, CNN Money reported. The group even grabbed a donation from Facebook chief executive and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg.

But financial problems hit the startup as early hype waned, and the company put up an appeal for more funding last month.

The site is still in its alpha testing phase and sent out new alpha invites to users after Zhitomirskiy’s death, TechCrunch reported in a separate post.

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.

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