Aaron Swartz was a key figure in the Internet community from the time he was a kid. He helped create RSS, was a co-founder of Reddit, helped develop the ideas and design around the creative commons, and was also a vocal and active leader in the movement to make information more open and available. He was also being targeted by prosecutors (many believed unfairly) for downloading “nearly five million articles from a fee-charging database of academic journals.” This led to a legal case that could have sent Swartz to prison for as long as 35 years. On Friday, Swartz (who had also suffered from deep depression in the past) hanged himself. There will be a lot of debate about whether the prosecution in this case was overly aggressive. But I hope this debate does not minimize the vicious, all-consuming power of depression — strong enough to take a life and forever shake a corner of the Internet.

+ Lawrence Lessig: “He was brilliant, and funny. A kid genius. A soul, a conscience, the source of a question I have asked myself a million times: What would Aaron think?”

+ Cory Doctorow: Aaron had “a kind of intense, fast intellect that really made me feel like he was part and parcel of the Internet society, like he belonged in the place where your thoughts are what matter, and not who you are or how old you are.”

+ Mathew Ingram has put together a great collection of Internet responses to the death of Aaron Swartz.

+ And finally, an interesting question from Peter Ludlow in the NYT: What is a Hactivist.