War for the Web
12 01.13

A Sad Week for the Internet

This week we mourn the loss of two men who were integral to the formation of War for the Web, and who, moreover, dedicated the majority of their lives to the Internet in the most meaningful ways imaginable.

Our first tragedy was the loss of Wally Feurzeig. For the last 50 years, Wally was a researcher at BBN, a division of Raytheon that contributed heavily to the invention and early development of the Internet. Wally was at BBN when they won the bid to create the first precursor to the Internet in 1964, and his contributions to the development of the commercial modem, his research in artificial intelligence, and his invention of the LOGO programming language have all provided tremendous benefit for other computer scientists and everyday computer users.

Wally was an advisor to War for the Web, and family to the filmmakers. When this project began, Wally brought us to BBN and introduced us to several of his colleagues who in turn provided us with valuable insight into the creation and regulation of the Internet in the United States. It is safe to say that without Wally’s guidance and insight, War for the Web would not be the same.

Wally’s passing was sadly followed by the premature death of Aaron Swartz. Aaron was a tremendous contributor to the modern Internet and its safe to say that his contributions touched people all over the world. First as a contributor to the RSS protocol and the Creative Commons, then as a co-founder and incubator of the Reddit community, and most recently in the fight against intrusive government action as a leader of the SOPA and PIPA protests and a founder of DemandProgress. Without a doubt, we all enjoy a better, richer, more robust Internet because of the work that Aaron did over his lifetime, and his death is a tremendous loss for the future of the Internet.

We met Aaron at Freedom 2 Connect last spring, and we had the good fortune of sitting down with Aaron in July and interviewing him for War for the Web. His unbridled enthusiasm for the Internet, coupled with his incredible passion for creating and disseminating information to others inspired us and we look forward to bringing his thoughts and stories about the War for the Web to our audience.

Aaron was a young man with strong convictions about freedom of information, freedom of access, and intellectual property, and he lived by those convictions. We don’t know the full circumstances of his legal troubles, but Lawrence Lessig, Cory Doctorow, and Tim Berners-Lee have all written touching stories about Aaron that provide more insight than we can. Please read those for additional information.

Our hearts go out to both Wally’s and Aaron’s families, and we are deeply saddened by both losses. We have lost two tremendous men whose contributions to the Internet and society have reshaped the social landscape. They will be missed.

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