Stephen Wilhite, inventor of the internet’s most popular short-video format, GIF, has passed away. He was 74.
Kathaleen, his wife, stated Thursday that he had died from COVID on Thursday.
Wilhite, a resident of Milford, Ohio was awarded a Webby lifetime achievement prize for inventing GIF. It became ubiquitous in memes and social media decades later, often as a cheeky representation or a cultural moment.
In 1987, Wilhite was working for CompuServe when the GIF was invented. “I saw the format that I wanted in my mind and then I began programming,” he said to The New York Times, in 2013. He claimed that the first image was of an airplane and insisted that the file only had one pronunciation – a soft G, like Jif peanut butter. He said that those who use the hard “G”, such as “got” or “given,” are wrong. “End of the story.”
He said that he loves the dancing baby GIF from the 1990s.
Kathaleen Wilhite stated that her husband was more than just inventing GIFs. She loved trains and had a basement dedicated to them. They also took camping trips. She said that he “never stopped programming” even after he retired in 2001.