Creator of the GIF dead at 74


Dylan Manarang, Journalist

Creator of the GIF, Stephen Wilhite, has died at age 74. Passing away March 14th, it was reported from Wilhite’s wife that Stephen had passed away due to complications from Covid-19.

As many of us know, the GIF (pronounced JIF, as in JIF peanut butter) is a universal way of communicating on the internet. The form of communication was first developed by Mr. Wilhite in 1987.

GIF stands for “Graphics Interchange Format.” Wilhite was a developer at an online service provider known as CompuServe. He and his team were tasked with resolving slow dial-up speeds, incompatible computer systems as well as images that were far too large to send to someone else. Eventually, Wilhite constructed a solution to compress images so they wouldn’t lose their sharpness, would load quickly and could appear on any computer. 

Thus, the GIF was born.

Following his retirement, he was honored with a lifetime achievement award at the Webbys, awards presented by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences to people who’ve impacted the internet.

Although Wilhite has passed, there is no doubt that the GIF will continue to grow and expand across the internet amongst different formats.