Stephen Wilhite, creator of the GIF, has died

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Wilhite after winning a Webby Lifetime Achievement award. | Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for The Webby Awards

Stephen Wilhite, one of the lead inventors of the GIF, died last week from COVID at the age of 74, according to his wife, Kathaleen, who spoke to The Verge. He was surrounded by family when he passed. His obituary page notes that “even with all his accomplishments, he remained a very humble, kind, and good man.”

Stephen Wilhite worked on GIF, or Graphics Interchange Format, which is now used for reactions, messages, and jokes, while employed at CompuServe in the 1980s. He retired around the early 2000s and spent his time traveling, camping, and building model trains in his basement.

Although GIFs are synonymous with animated internet memes these days, that wasn’t the reason Wilhite created the format….

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