A 22-year-old social networking pioneer and Internet privacy advocate who dared to challenge Facebook and Google is dead.

Ilya Zhitomirskiy died Saturday after San Francisco police were summoned for a reported suicide, police spokesman Officer Albie Esparza said.

Mr Zhitomirskiy was one of the founders Diaspora*, a new social networking service meant to give users more control of their information online, and sought to lure people away from bigger sites like Facebook, Google and Twitter.

Police would not release other details of his death and a medical examiner’s report could take weeks before it becomes public.

Mr Zhitomirskiy and three friends, Daniel Grippi, Maxwell Salzberg, and Raphael Sofaer, launched a trial run of Diaspora* last year that attracted the attention of The New York Times and National Public Radio and left the tech world buzzing.

They were all students at New York University’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences and Mr Zhitomirskiy described himself on his Twitter account as a ‘free culture and open web enthusiast. Now one of the four Diaspora* bros.’

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. see more

source: dailymail, topinfopost