Gene Kan, Dead at 25

Gene Kan, founder of InfraSearch/ and Gnutella’s most vocal spokesman/developer, passed away on June 29, at age 25. I haven’t seen this mentioned anywhere, except for a single post by Wired reporter Brad King on the Pho music list. Brad informed us that Gene was found dead in his apartment around June 27-29. There was a note found alongside his body, but no additional details are currently available. I expect this will soon be picked up by Slashdot, Wired, and the usual suspects.

I had the privilege of working with the XCF folks, but never managed to meet Gene. Here’s his musings on open services from last September, an audio interview on NPR, some haiku from his personal homepage, and his resume. Also, you should read Joey DeVilla’s Letter to Gene Kan.

Update: Matt Haughey sent my post to Cory Doctorow, who was pretty close with Gene. posted their obituary ten minutes later, followed by the Washington Post, K5, and Wired News.

The Post is reporting Sun’s statement that his death was an accident; but Wired confirms that it was, in fact, suicide. It’s a sad day. Also, Yaroslav updated his site, pointing to Gene’s anonymous warblog on Blogspot. Yahoo posted the Reuters story late Tuesday. On July 25, the San Jose Mercury News released a final, detailed obituary.


    I wasn’t pretty close with Gene. He was a friend, but I didn’t get to know him as well as I’d have liked. He had lots of people who were way closer to him than I am, and I don’t want to compare my shock and sadness to what they’re going through.

    Yeah, I mentioned that in the update above. Thanks anyway. By the way, I’m surprised that Slashdot and Wired still haven’t mentioned it.

    I came here from Aaron Swartz’s site. Sun (according to

    AP) claims it was an accident, not a suicide.

    Perhaps Gene’s family requested the Slashdot editors not to run an article while the facts aren’t established.

    I’m extremely saddened for him and those who knew him well.

    Amazing how this sad & tragic quasimeme went from here & BoingBoing to the front page of Yahoo! within a day.

    With all due respect to Gene’s family, I can’t help but think it’s wrong to remove his website, resume, and haiku from the internet, given his passion for information sharing.

    I guess the theory is, as Mr. Oram wrongly puts it, that such materials were authored not by Gene Kan but by “clinical depression,” a horrible disease that one magically contracts like a cold or flu. This might help him come to terms with Gene’s suicide (actually, Clinical Depression [hereafter abbreviated C.D.] murdered him!), but for anyone who knew him (Mr. DeVilla calls him sardonic, & others call him ironic, sarcastic, dry, deadpan) such a theory would imply that Gene was a walking disease. Maybe he preferred his pre-Gnutella life not because C.D. prevented his enjoyment of his p-2-p success but simply because he preferred his pre-p-2-p life. Maybe he meant what he said. And…it would be an insult to his intelligence not to at least entertain this idea: maybe he meant what he did!

    Well said. I spoke with a friend of mine in the XCF about their decision to remove his pages. Another member suggested their removal, they took a vote, and it was approved. Here’s the proposal:

    “I think it’s time to retire Gene’s web pages, for better or for worse. I don’t think the contents of his web page should be destroyed, especially considering that Gene was someone who kept absolutely everything (including junk mail). Someone can think of some place for their safekeeping.”

    Regardless of how or when I die, I want everything I’ve ever published to remain available indefinitely, online or otherwise.

    I wish Gene had gotten some counseling in addition to his evidently ineffective drugs.

    Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean people aren’t following you, and just because you’re ‘clinically depressed’ doesn’t mean there aren’t real issues to be depressed about.

    If Gene had lofty goals and was not achieving them, he had every right to be depressed. And the barriers to his goals were not a lack in seratonin uptake inhibitions; it was real world problems.

    On the other hand, however people choose to comfort themselves is ok with me. There is also a lot of truth in what Andy said- Gene was fond of the ‘good old days’ and not as fond of now, and from other people’s perspectives, that’s a bit sad.

    I agree with Andy in a different way: the shrinks Gene entrusted his psyche to weren’t high-tech enough to make it fucking work better for him.

    (Note: I knew a woman. Her husband left her. She got depressed. They electroshocked her. She was still depressed. I have to wonder, “hey, why don’t you talk to her about her husband leaving her?”)

    Anyway, don’t want to get political. My view: if your friend is suicidal get him counseling, too.

    I’d never heard of Gene before this, but it is truly sad to know that someone of his ability chose to take his own life. I’ve always wanted to be in a position such as his – being in on such an exciting field of work… It’s really troubling… I’ve felt for a long time that I haven’t lived up to my own professional standards and have attributed a lot of my own problems to that fact: now I realize that even being in a position such as he was in cannot fill a certain void…

    In other words, there’s more to life, I guess, than “business”… I hope I can take his example and learn from it – avoid getting down… in this respect maybe I hope that his death can lead to *something*…

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