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Aaron Swartz
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Swartz at a Creative Commons event on December 13, 2008
Aaron Hillel Swartz

(1986-11-08)November 8, 1986
Died January 11, 2013(2013-01-11) (aged 26)
Education Stanford University
  • Software developer
  • writer
  • internet activist
  • Creative Commons (development)
  • Reddit (co-founder)
  • Open Library
  • DeadDrop
  • Progressive Change Campaign Committee
  • Demand Progress (co-founder)
  • ThoughtWorks
  • Tor2web
Title Fellow, Harvard University Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics
  • ArsDigita Prize (2000)
  • American Library Association's James Madison Award (posthumously)
  • EFF Pioneer Award 2013 (posthumously)
  • Internet Hall of Fame 2013 (posthumously)

Aaron Hillel Swartz (November 8, 1986 – January 11, 2013) was an American computer programmer, entrepreneur, writer, political organizer, and Internet hacktivist. As a programmer, Swartz helped develop the web feed format RSS; the technical architecture for Creative Commons, an organization dedicated to creating copyright licenses; the website framework; and Markdown, a lightweight markup language format. Swartz was involved in the development of the social news aggregation website Reddit until he departed from the company in 2007. He is often credited as a martyr and a prodigy, and his work focused on civic awareness and activism.

After Reddit was sold to Condé Nast Publications in 2006, Swartz became more involved in activism, helping launch the Progressive Change Campaign Committee in 2009. In 2010, he became a research fellow at Harvard University's Safra Research Lab on Institutional Corruption, directed by Lawrence Lessig. He founded the online group Demand Progress, known for its campaign against the Stop Online Piracy Act.

On January 6, 2011, Swartz was arrested by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) police on state breaking-and-entering charges, after connecting a computer to the MIT network in an unmarked and unlocked closet, and setting it to download academic journal articles systematically from JSTOR using a guest user account issued to him by MIT. Federal prosecutors, led by Carmen Ortiz, later charged him with two counts of wire fraud and eleven violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, carrying a cumulative maximum penalty of $1 million in fines, 35 years in prison, asset forfeiture, restitution, and supervised release. Swartz declined a plea bargain under which he would have served six months in federal prison. Two days after the prosecution rejected a counter-offer by Swartz, he was found dead in his Brooklyn apartment. In 2013, Swartz was inducted posthumously into the Internet Hall of Fame.

Early life

Aaron Swartz and Lawrence Lessig
Swartz in 2002 with Lawrence Lessig at the launch party for Creative Commons

Aaron Swartz was born in Highland Park, 25 miles (40 kilometers) north of Chicago, into a Jewish family. He was the eldest child of Susan and Robert Swartz and brother to Noah and Ben Swartz. He was an atheist. His father founded the software firm Mark Williams Company. At an early age, Swartz immersed himself in the study of computers, programming, the Internet, and Internet culture. He attended North Shore Country Day School, a small private school near Chicago, until ninth grade, when he left high school and enrolled in courses at Lake Forest College.

In 1999, at age twelve, he created the website The Info Network, a user-generated encyclopedia. The site won the ArsDigita Prize, given to young people who create "useful, educational, and collaborative" noncommercial websites and led to early recognition of Swartz's nascent talent in coding. At age 14, he became a member of the working group that authored the RSS 1.0 web syndication specification. A year later, he became involved in the Creative Commons organization. In 2005, he enrolled at Stanford University but left the school after his first year.


During Swartz's first year at Stanford, he applied to Y Combinator's first Summer Founders Program, proposing to work on a startup called Infogami, a flexible content management system designed to create rich and visually interesting websites or a form of wiki for structured data. After working on it with co-founder Simon Carstensen over the summer of 2005, Swartz opted not to return to Stanford, choosing instead to continue to develop and seek funding for Infogami.

As part of his work on Infogami, Swartz created the web application framework because he was unhappy with other available systems in the Python programming language. In the early fall of 2005, he worked with his fellow co-founders of another nascent Y-Combinator firm, Reddit, to rewrite its Lisp codebase using Python and Although Infogami's platform was abandoned after Not a Bug was acquired, Infogami's software was used to support the Internet Archive's Open Library project and the web framework was used as the basis for many other projects by Swartz and many others.

When Infogami failed to find further funding, Y-Combinator organizers suggested Infogami merge with Reddit, which it did in November 2005, creating a new firm, Not a Bug, devoted to promoting both products. As a result, Swartz was given the title of co-founder of Reddit. Although both projects initially struggled, Reddit made large gains in popularity in 2005–2006.

In October 2006, based largely on Reddit's success, Not a Bug was acquired by Condé Nast Publications, owner of Wired magazine. Swartz moved with his company to San Francisco to continue to work on Reddit for Wired. He found corporate office life uncongenial and ultimately was asked to resign from the company. In September 2007, he joined Infogami co-founder Simon Carstensen to launch a new firm, Jottit, in another attempt to create a markdown-driven content management system in Python.


In 2008, Swartz founded, "the good government site with teeth," to aggregate and visualize data about politicians. That year, he wrote a widely circulated Guerilla Open Access Manifesto. On December 27, 2010, he filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to learn about the treatment of Chelsea Manning, alleged source for WikiLeaks.


In 2008, Swartz downloaded about 2.7 million federal court documents stored in the PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) database managed by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts.

The Huffington Post characterized his actions this way: "Swartz downloaded public court documents from the PACER system in an effort to make them available outside of the expensive service. The move drew the attention of the FBI, which ultimately decided not to press charges as the documents were, in fact, public."

PACER was charging eight cents per page for information that Carl Malamud, who founded the nonprofit group Public.Resource.Org, contended should be free, because federal documents are not covered by copyright. The fees were "plowed back to the courts to finance technology, but the system [ran] a budget surplus of some $150 million, according to court reports," reported The New York Times. PACER used technology that was "designed in the bygone days of screechy telephone modems ... putting the nation's legal system behind a wall of cash and kludge." Malamud appealed to fellow activists, urging them to visit one of 17 libraries conducting a free trial of the PACER system, download court documents, and send them to him for public distribution.

After reading Malamud's call for action, Swartz used a Perl computer script running on Amazon cloud servers to download the documents, using credentials belonging to a Sacramento library. From September 4 to 20, 2008, it accessed documents and uploaded them to a cloud computing service. He released the documents to Malamud's organization.

On September 29, 2008, the GPO suspended the free trial, "pending an evaluation" of the program. Swartz's actions were subsequently investigated by the FBI. The case was closed after two months with no charges filed. Swartz learned the details of the investigation after filing a FOIA request with the FBI, and described their response as the "usual mess of confusions that shows the FBI's lack of sense of humor." PACER still charges per page, but customers using Firefox, Chrome, or Safari have the option of saving the documents for free public access with a plug-in called RECAP.

At a 2013 memorial for Swartz, Malamud recalled their work with PACER. They brought millions of U.S. District Court records out from behind PACER's "pay wall", he said, and found them full of privacy violations, including medical records and the names of minor children and confidential informants.

A more detailed account of his collaboration with Swartz on the PACER project appears in an essay on Malamud's website.

Writing in Ars Technica, Timothy Lee, who later made use of the documents obtained by Swartz as a co-creator of RECAP, offered some insight into discrepancies in reports on how much data Swartz downloaded: "In a back-of-the-envelope calculation a few days before the offsite crawl was shut down, Swartz guessed he got around 25 percent of the documents in PACER. The New York Times similarly reported Swartz had downloaded "an estimated 20 percent of the entire database". Based on the facts that Swartz downloaded 2.7 million documents while PACER, at the time, contained 500 million, Lee concluded that Swartz downloaded less than one percent of the database.

Progressive Change Campaign Committee

In 2009, wanting to learn about effective activism, Swartz helped launch the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. He wrote in his blog: "I spend my days experimenting with new ways to get progressive policies enacted and progressive politicians elected." He led the first activism event of his career with the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, delivering thousands of "Honor Kennedy" petition signatures to Massachusetts legislators, asking them to fulfill former Senator Ted Kennedy's last wish by appointing a senator to vote for healthcare reform.

Demand Progress

In 2010, Swartz co-founded Demand Progress, a political advocacy group that organizes people online to "take action by contacting Congress and other leaders, funding pressure tactics, and spreading the word" about civil liberties, government reform, and other issues.

During academic year 2010–11, Swartz conducted research studies on political corruption as a Lab Fellow in Harvard University's Edmond J. Safra Research Lab on Institutional Corruption.

Author Cory Doctorow, in his novel Homeland, "drew on advice from Swartz in setting out how his protagonist could use the information now available about voters to create a grass-roots anti-establishment political campaign." In an afterword to the novel, Swartz wrote: "These political hacktivist tools can be used by anyone motivated and talented enough.... Now it's up to you to change the system. ... Let me know if I can help."

Opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)

Swartz in 2012 protesting against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)

Swartz was involved in the campaign to prevent passage of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which sought to combat Internet copyright violations but was criticized on the basis that it would make it easier for the U.S. government to shut down web sites accused of violating copyright and would place intolerable burdens on Internet providers. After the bill's defeat, Swartz was the keynote speaker at the F2C:Freedom to Connect 2012 event in Washington, D.C., on May 21, 2012.

He added, "We won this fight because everyone made themselves the hero of their own story. Everyone took it as their job to save this crucial freedom." He was referring to a series of protests against the bill by numerous websites, described by the Electronic Frontier Foundation as the biggest protest in Internet history, with over 115,000 sites posting their opposition. Swartz also spoke on the topic at an event organized by ThoughtWorks.


Aaron Swartz at Boston Wikipedia Meetup, 2009-08-18
Swartz at 2009 Boston Wikipedia Meetup

Swartz participated in Wikipedia since August 2003 under the username AaronSw. In 2006, he ran unsuccessfully for the Wikimedia Foundation's Board of Trustees.

In 2006, Swartz wrote an analysis of how Wikipedia articles are written, and concluded that the bulk of its content came from tens of thousands of occasional contributors, or "outsiders," each of whom made few other contributions to the site, while a core group of 500 to 1,000 regular editors tended to correct spelling and other formatting errors. He said: "The formatters aid the contributors, not the other way around." His conclusions, based on the analysis of edit histories of several randomly selected articles, contradicted the opinion of Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, who believed the core group of regular editors provided most of the content while thousands of others contributed to formatting issues. Swartz came to his conclusions by counting the number of characters editors added to particular articles, while Wales counted the total number of edits.

United States v. Aaron Swartz case

According to state and federal authorities, Swartz used JSTOR, a digital repository, to download a large number of academic journal articles through MIT's computer network over the course of a few weeks in late 2010 and early 2011. Visitors to MIT's "open campus" were authorized to access JSTOR through its network; Swartz, as a research fellow at Harvard University, also had a JSTOR account.

The download

On September 25, 2010, the IP address, part of the MIT network, began sending hundreds of PDF download requests per minute to the JSTOR website, enough to slow the site's performance. This prompted a block of the IP address. In the morning, another IP address, also from within the MIT network, began sending more PDF download requests, resulting in a temporary block on the firewall level of all MIT computers in the entire range.

According to authorities, Swartz downloaded the documents through a laptop connected to a networking switch in a controlled-access wiring closet at MIT. The closet's door was kept unlocked, according to press reports. When it was discovered, a video camera was placed in the room to record Swartz; his computer was left untouched. The recording was stopped once Swartz was identified; but rather than pursue a civil lawsuit against him, JSTOR settled with him in June 2011 where he surrendered the downloaded data.

On July 30, 2013, JSTOR released 300 partially redacted documents used as incriminating evidence against Swartz, originally sent to the United States Attorney's Office in response to subpoenas in the case United States v. Aaron Swartz.

(The following images are all excerpts from the 3,461-page PDF document.)

Arrest and prosecution

On the night of January 6, 2011, Swartz was arrested near the Harvard campus by MIT Police and a Secret Service agent, and arraigned in Cambridge District Court on two state charges of breaking and entering with intent to commit a felony.

On July 11, 2011, he was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of wire fraud, computer fraud, unlawfully obtaining information from a protected computer, and recklessly damaging a protected computer.

On November 17, 2011, Swartz was indicted by a Middlesex County Superior Court grand jury on state charges of breaking and entering with intent, grand larceny, and unauthorized access to a computer network. On December 16, 2011, state prosecutors filed a notice that they were dropping the two original charges, and the charges listed in the November 17, 2011 indictment were dropped on March 8, 2012. According to a spokesperson for the Middlesex County prosecutor, this was done to avoid impeding a federal prosecution headed by Stephen P. Heymann, supported by evidence provided by Secret Service agent Michael S. Pickett.

On September 12, 2012, federal prosecutors filed a superseding indictment adding nine more felony counts, increasing Swartz's maximum criminal exposure to 50 years of imprisonment and $1 million in fines. During plea negotiations with Swartz's attorneys, the prosecutors offered to recommend a sentence of six months in a low-security prison if Swartz pled guilty to 13 federal crimes. Swartz and his lead attorney rejected the deal, opting instead for a trial where prosecutors would be forced to justify their pursuit of him.

The federal prosecution involved what was characterized by numerous critics (such as former Nixon White House counsel John Dean) as an "overcharging" 13-count indictment and "overzealous", "Nixonian" prosecution for alleged computer crimes, brought by then U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Carmen Ortiz.

Swartz died on January 11, 2013. After his death, federal prosecutors dropped the charges. On December 4, 2013, due to a Freedom of Information Act suit by the investigations editor of Wired magazine, several documents related to the case were released by the Secret Service, including a video of Swartz entering the MIT network closet.

Death, funeral, and memorial gatherings


On the evening of January 11, 2013, Swartz's girlfriend, Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, found him dead in his Brooklyn apartment. Swartz's family and his partner created a memorial website on which they issued a statement, saying: "He used his prodigious skills as a programmer and technologist not to enrich himself but to make the Internet and the world a fairer, better place."

Days before Swartz's funeral, Lawrence Lessig eulogized his friend and sometime-client in an essay, "Prosecutor as Bully." He decried the disproportionality of Swartz's prosecution and said, "The question this government needs to answer is why it was so necessary that Aaron Swartz be labeled a 'felon'. For in the 18 months of negotiations, that was what he was not willing to accept." Cory Doctorow wrote, "Aaron had an unbeatable combination of political insight, technical skill, and intelligence about people and issues. I think he could have revolutionized American (and worldwide) politics. His legacy may still yet do so."

Funeral and memorial gatherings

2013-01-24 Aaron Swartz memorial SF sign
Aaron Swartz Memorial sign at Internet Archive headquarters, San Francisco, January 24, 2013
2013-01-24 Aaron Swartz memorial SF program
Aaron Swartz Memorial program at Internet Archive headquarters, San Francisco, January 24, 2013

Swartz's funeral services were held on January 15, 2013, at Central Avenue Synagogue in Highland Park, Illinois. Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the World Wide Web, delivered a eulogy. The same day, The Wall Street Journal published a story based in part on an interview with Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman. She told the Journal that Swartz lacked the money to pay for a trial and "it was too hard for him to ... make that part of his life go public" by asking for help. He was also distressed, she said, because two of his friends had just been subpoenaed and because he no longer believed that MIT would try to stop the prosecution.

Several memorials followed soon afterward. On January 19, hundreds attended a memorial at the Cooper Union, speakers at which included Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, open source advocate Doc Searls, Creative Commons' Glenn Otis Brown, journalist Quinn Norton, Roy Singham of ThoughtWorks, and David Segal of Demand Progress. On January 24, there was a memorial at the Internet Archive headquarters in San Francisco (video) with speakers including Stinebrickner-Kauffman, Alex Stamos, Brewster Kahle, Peter Eckersley, and Carl Malamud. On February 4, a memorial was held in the Cannon House Office Building on Capitol Hill; speakers at this memorial included Senator Ron Wyden and Representatives Darrell Issa, Alan Grayson, and Jared Polis, and other lawmakers in attendance included Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representatives Zoe Lofgren and Jan Schakowsky. A memorial also took place on March 12 at the MIT Media Lab.

Swartz's family recommended GiveWell for donations in his memory, an organization that Swartz admired, had collaborated with and was the sole beneficiary of his will.


Open Access

Supporters of Swartz responded to news of his death with an effort called #PDFTribute to promote Open Access. On January 12, Eva Vivalt, a development economist at the World Bank, began posting her academic articles online using the hashtag #pdftribute as a tribute to Swartz. Scholars posted links to their works. Swartz' story has exposed the topic of open access to scientific publications to wider audiences. In Swartz' wake, many institutions and personalities have campaigned for open access to scientific knowledge. Swartz's death prompted calls for more open access to scholarly data (e.g., open science data). The Think Computer Foundation and the Center for Information Technology Policy (CITP) at Princeton University announced scholarships awarded in memory of Swartz. In 2013, Swartz was posthumously awarded the American Library Association's James Madison Award for being an "outspoken advocate for public participation in government and unrestricted access to peer-reviewed scholarly articles." In March, the editor and editorial board of the Journal of Library Administration resigned en masse, citing a dispute with the journal's publisher, Routledge. One board member wrote of a "crisis of conscience about publishing in a journal that was not open access" after the death of Swartz. In 2002, Swartz had stated that when he died, he wanted all the contents of his hard drives made publicly available.


Several members of the U.S. House of Representatives – Republican Darrell Issa and Democrats Zoe Lofgren and subsequent Colorado Governor Jared Polis – all on the House Judiciary Committee, raised questions regarding the government's handling of the case.

Calling the charges against him "ridiculous and trumped up," Polis said Swartz was a "martyr", whose death illustrated the need for Congress to limit the discretion of federal prosecutors.

Massachusetts Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren issued a statement saying "[Aaron's] advocacy for Internet freedom, social justice, and Wall Street reform demonstrated ... the power of his ideas ..."

In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn asked, "On what basis did the U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts conclude that her office's conduct was 'appropriate'?" and "Was the prosecution of Mr. Swartz in any way retaliation for his exercise of his rights as a citizen under the Freedom of Information Act?"

Congressional investigations

Issa, who chaired the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, announced that he would investigate the Justice Department's actions in prosecuting Swartz. In a statement to The Huffington Post, he praised Swartz's work toward "open government and free access to the people." Issa's investigation has garnered some bipartisan support.

On January 28, 2013, Issa and ranking committee member Elijah Cummings published a letter to U.S. Attorney General Holder, questioning why federal prosecutors had filed the superseding indictment. On February 20, WBUR reported that Ortiz was expected to testify at an upcoming Oversight Committee hearing about her office's handling of the Swartz case. On February 22, Associate Deputy Attorney General Steven Reich conducted a briefing for congressional staffers involved in the investigation. They were told that Swartz's Guerilla Open Access Manifesto played a role in prosecutorial decision-making. Congressional staffers left this briefing believing that prosecutors thought Swartz had to be convicted of a felony carrying at least a short prison sentence in order to justify having filed the case against him in the first place.

Excoriating the Department of Justice as the "Department of Vengeance", Stinebrickner-Kauffman told the Guardian that the DOJ had erred in relying on Swartz's Guerilla Open Access Manifesto as an accurate indication of his beliefs by 2010. "He was no longer a single issue activist," she said. "He was into lots of things, from healthcare, to climate change to money in politics."

On March 6, Holder testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that the case was "a good use of prosecutorial discretion." Stinebrickner-Kauffman issued a statement in reply, repeating and amplifying her claims of prosecutorial misconduct. Public documents, she wrote, reveal that prosecutor Stephen Heymann "instructed the Secret Service to seize and hold evidence without a warrant... lied to the judge about that fact in written briefs... [and] withheld exculpatory evidence... for over a year," violating his legal and ethical obligations to turn such evidence over to the defense. On March 22, Senator Al Franken wrote Holder a letter expressing concerns, writing that "charging a young man like Mr. Swartz with federal offenses punishable by over 35 years of federal imprisonment seems remarkably aggressive – particularly when it appears that one of the principal aggrieved parties ... did not support a criminal prosecution."

Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act

The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR) is a bill that would mandate earlier public release of taxpayer-funded research. FASTR has been described as "The Other Aaron's Law."

Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Senator John Cornyn (R-Tex.) introduced the Senate version in 2013, 2015, and 2017 while the bill was introduced to the House by Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) and Kevin Yoder (R-Kans.). Senator Wyden wrote of the bill, "the FASTR act provides that access to taxpayer funded research should never be hidden behind a paywall."

While the legislation had not passed as of August 2017, it helped to prompt some motion toward more open access on the part of the US administration. Shortly after the bill's original introduction, the Office of Science and Technology Policy directed "each Federal agency with over $100 million in annual conduct of research and development expenditures to develop a plan to support increased public access to the results of research funded by the Federal Government."


Swartz has been featured in various works of art and has posthumously received dedications from numerous artists. In 2013, Kenneth Goldsmith dedicated his "Printing out the Internet" exhibition to Swartz. There are also dedicated biographical films for Aaron:

The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz

On January 11, 2014, marking the first anniversary of his death, a preview was released of The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz, a documentary about Swartz, the NSA and SOPA. The film was officially released at the January 2014 Sundance Film Festival. Democracy Now! covered the release of the documentary, as well as Swartz's life and legal case, in a sprawling interview with director Brian Knappenberger, Swartz's father, brother, and his attorney. The documentary is released under a Creative Commons License; it debuted in theaters and on-demand in June 2014.

Mashable called the documentary "a powerful homage to Aaron Swartz". Its debut at Sundance received a standing ovation. Mashable printed, "With the help of experts, The Internet's Own Boy makes a clear argument: Swartz unjustly became a victim of the rights and freedoms for which he stood." The Hollywood Reporter described it as a "heartbreaking" story of a "tech wunderkind persecuted by the U.S. government", and a must-see "for anyone who knows enough to care about the way laws govern information transfer in the digital age".


In October 2014, Killswitch, a documentary film featuring Swartz, as well as Lawrence Lessig, Tim Wu, and Edward Snowden, received its world premiere at the Woodstock Film Festival, where it won the award for Best Editing. The film focuses on Swartz's role in advocating for internet freedoms.

In February 2015, Killswitch was invited to screen at the Capitol Visitor's Center in Washington, D.C. by Congressman Alan Grayson. The event was held on the eve of the Federal Communications Commission's historic decision on Net Neutrality. Congressman Grayson, Lawrence Lessig, and Free Press CEO Craig Aaron spoke about Swartz and his fight on behalf of a free and open Internet at the event.

Congressman Grayson states that Killswitch is "one of the most honest accounts of the battle to control the Internet – and access to information itself." Richard von Busack of the Metro Silicon Valley writes of Killswitch, "Some of the most lapidary use of found footage this side of The Atomic Café". Fred Swegles of the Orange County Register remarks, "Anyone who values unfettered access to online information is apt to be captivated by Killswitch, a gripping and fast-paced documentary." Kathy Gill of GeekWire asserts that "Killswitch is much more than a dry recitation of technical history. Director Ali Akbarzadeh, producer Jeff Horn, and writer Chris Dollar created a human-centered story. A large part of that connection comes from Lessig and his relationship with Swartz."

Other films

Patriot of the Web is an independent biographical film about Aaron Swartz, written and directed by Darius Burke. The film was released on September 15, 2019, onto YouTube. Actor Shawn Mcclintock plays Aaron Swartz. The film had a limited video on demand release in December 2017 on Reelhouse and in January 2018 on Pivotshare.

Another biographical film about Swartz, Think Aaron, is being developed by HBO Films.



  • Markdown: Swartz was a major contributor to John Gruber's Markdown, a lightweight markup language for generating HTML, and author of its html2text translator. The syntax for Markdown was influenced by Swartz's earlier atx language (2002), which today is primarily remembered for its syntax for specifying headers, known as atx-style headers: Markdown itself remains in widespread use, with websites such as Reddit and GitHub using it.
  • RDF/XML at W3C: In 2001, Swartz joined the RDFCore working group at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), where he authored RFC 3870, Application/RDF+XML Media Type Registration. The document described a new media type, "RDF/XML", designed to support the Semantic Web.


  • DeadDrop: In 2011–2012, Swartz, Kevin Poulsen, and James Dolan designed and implemented DeadDrop, a system that allows anonymous informants to send electronic documents without fear of disclosure. In May 2013, the first instance of the software was launched by The New Yorker under the name Strongbox. The Freedom of the Press Foundation has since taken over development of the software, which has been renamed SecureDrop.
  • Tor2web: In 2008, Swartz worked with Virgil Griffith to design and implement Tor2web, an HTTP proxy for Tor-hidden services. The proxy was designed to provide easy access to Tor from a basic web browser. The software is now maintained by Giovanni Pellerano within the GlobaLeaks project.


  • Swartz, Aaron; Hendler, James (October 2001). "The Semantic Web: A network of content for the digital city". Proceedings of the Second Annual Digital Cities Workshop (Kyoto, JP: Blogspace).
  • Swartz, Aaron (January–February 2002). "MusicBrainz: A Semantic Web service". IEEE Intelligent Systems 17 (1): 76–77. doi:10.1109/5254.988466. ISSN 1541-1672.
  • Swartz, Aaron; Hendler, James (2009). Building programmable Web sites. S.F.: Morgan & Claypool. ISBN 978-1-59829-920-5.
  • Swartz, Aaron (Interviewee). We can change the world (Video). Archived from the original on 2021-12-21 – via YouTube.
  • Swartz, Aaron (Speaker) (May 21, 2012). Keynote address at Freedom To Connect 2012: How we stopped SOPA (Video). D.C. Archived from the original on 2021-12-21 – via YouTube.
  • Swartz, Aaron (February 2013). "Aaron Swartz's A Programmable Web: An Unfinished Work". Synthesis Lectures on the Semantic Web: Theory and Technology (Morgan & Claypool Publishers) 3 (2): 1–64. doi:10.2200/S00481ED1V01Y201302WBE005. "To Dan Connolly, who not only created the Web but found time to teach it to me.".
  • Swartz, Aaron (January 2016). The Boy Who Could Change the World: The Writings of Aaron Swartz. The New Press. OLOL25886237M.

See also

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