The Morning After: The inventor of the GIF has died

Stephen Wilhite invented the most iconic image file format.

Stephen Lovekin via Getty Images

GIF inventor Stephen Wilhite has died from COVID-19 at the age of 74, NPR has reported. He worked at CompuServe when he developed the Graphics Interchange Format, designed to allow photo transfers over slow modem connections, inventing the format in 1987 virtually on his own, according to his spouse.

With limitations like 256 colors per animation, the format could easily have died out long ago. However, it was designed by Wilhite to store multiple frames, making it easy to share animated snippets without the demands of a video format. After AOL purchased CompuServe and let the patent expire, the GIF renaissance began with artists and Tumblr users. And on and on it went.

Oh and it's "JIF" with a soft "G," according to Wilhite, which I consider the final word on the matter.

— Mat Smith

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