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Diaspora social network co-founder dies at age 22

Ilya Zhitomirskiy, the 22-year-old co-founder of privacy-focused social network Diaspora, has died in San Francisco.

The Soviet-born entrepreneur's cause of death has not yet been confirmed by authorities, although they said suicide is suspected.

Diaspora's website has been redesigned in the wake of Zhitomirskiy's death to honor him.

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Zhitomirskiy and three New York University classmates released source code for Diaspora in September of 2010 and launched the service about a year ago as an open source-based social network designed to offer more user controls and privacy than Facebook.

The project, which raised $200,000 out of the gate through microfunding site Kickstarter, has had trouble raising additional money of late and cited problems with PayPal allowing donations to go through. Although Diaspora has been designed as an alternative to commercial social network sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg has been complimentary of the project and donated to it, calling it a "cool idea" during a Wired.com interview

Here's how Diaspora's team described their effort in their original Kickstarter pitch:

We believe that privacy and connectedness do not have to be mutually exclusive. With Diaspora, we are reclaiming our data, securing our social connections, and making it easy to share on your own terms. We think we can replace today's centralized social web with a more secure and convenient decentralized network. Diaspora will be easy to use, and it will be centered on you instead of a faceless hub.

The Google+ technique for grouping friends into private "Circles" is similar to Diaspora's method of allowing users to group other users into closed "Aspects" for private sharing.

Here's how Zhitomirskiy and friends explained Diaspora in a video:

IDG News Service contributed to this report

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