If you've never heard of the Diaspora social network, there's a good chance you will now. It sounds like it was meant to be the idealistic "hacker's" version of Facebook ... one where users have much more control over their privacy and the information they're sharing through the "open-source" network. Four kids at NYU dreamed it up (much like the few guys at Harvard, one of those being Mark Zuckerberg, almost 10 years ago), but today news broke that 22-year-old co-founder Ilya Zhitomirskiy has died.
The reason for the tragic loss is currently unknown, but it's definitely bizarre and concerning. Being the conspiracy queen I usually am, I've already dreamed up some pretty wild, far-reaching explanations, but I guess we'll just have to wait a couple of weeks for the San Fran coroners' office to give the official word. Their current speculation is suicide. In the meantime, though, how much you wanna bet Diaspora is about to BLOW UP?
It's a bit morbid, but true that premature and/or tragic deaths tend to draw our interest to various things in culture that we wouldn't have noticed otherwise. Take RENT ... creator Jonathan Larson died on opening night of the famous musical, and while the show was bound to be a phenomenon anyway, his death definitely fueled the fire and interest. Or how about Nirvana? Sure, the band had tons of fans before Kurt died. But after? Legendary. One could argue that Steve Jobs' passing has motivated existing Apple fans to be even more loyal to the brand ... and has perked up non-Apple fans' ears, steering them in the Mac direction. Sadly, it just happens that way.
And now ... with Zhitomirskiy's untimely death, it could happen again. If you had asked me a week ago if I thought a hippie-ish social network competitor to Facebook could succeed, I'd scoff. But it seems the Diaspora guys were on to something. Even Zuck himself commended them for trying to do it. I have a feeling that now, we won't be able to help but sit up, pay attention, and check out the promising Facebook competitor.
Do you agree that a tragic, untimely death often makes someone or something in culture more popular? Does Diaspora sound like something you'd want to check out?
Image via joindiaspora.com