GIF inventor dies; five-word acceptance speech rocked internet

The man credited with creating the GIF has died at age 74.

Stephen Wilhite, who died last week in Milford, Ohio, led the team at the online service provider CompuServe that introduced the Graphics Interchange Format in 1987. Their goal had been a format by which simple color images could be shared even over a slow connection.

Twenty-six years later, when he was given a lifetime achievement Webby award, Wilhite cleared up a point that  had long divided the online community. Keeping with the Webby protocol of a five-word acceptance speech, he declared: “It’s pronounced ‘jif,’ not ‘gif.’” The audience erupted in applause.

The presentation included a video (embedded below) displaying some of the most popular of the animated GIFs, including the one Wilhite had professed affection for in a New York Times interview: the dancing baby.


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