Stephen Wilhite, creator of meme-favorite GIF, has died of COVID

Stephen Wilhite, the inventor of GIF, the short video format popular on the internet, has died. He was 74.

His wife Kathaleen said in a phone interview Thursday that he died of COVID on March 14.

Wilhite, who lived in Milford, Ohio, won a 2013 Webby Lifetime Achievement Award for inventing the GIF, which decades after its creation became ubiquitous in memes and social media, often used as a cheeky depiction of a cultural moment.

Wilhite was working at CompuServe in 1987 when he invented the GIF. “I saw the format I wanted in my head and then started programming,” he told the New York Times in 2013, saying the first image was an airplane and insisting the file only had one pronunciation — one soft “G” like Jif Peanut Butter. Those who use the hard “G” as in “get” or “give” are “wrong,” he said. “End of the story.”

In this interview, he said that the dancing baby gif from the 90s is one of his favorites.

“There’s a lot more to him than inventing GIFs,” Kathaleen Wilhite said of her husband, who loved trains, dedicated a room to them in the basement of their “enormous train track” house, and went on camping trips. But even after his retirement in 2001, “he never stopped programming,” she said.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Stephen Wilhite, creator of meme-favorite GIF, has died of COVID

Dais Johnston

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