GIF creator Stephen Wilhite dead of COVID at age 74

The creator of one of everyone's favorite ways to share reactions online has passed away.


The creator of the GIF, Stephen Wilhite, has passed away at the age of 74 from COVID. The news was reported by outlets like The Verge who spoke to Wilhite’s wife Kathleen. According to The Verge’s reporting, he was surrounded by family at the time of his passing.

During his life, Wilhite worked at CompuServe where he created the GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) in 1987. Even if you aren’t familiar with Wilhite by name, you’re undoubtedly familiar with his work, with GIFs being one of the most popular ways to share short pieces of media online like relatable reactions. GIFs weren’t originally created for this purpose, though. As noted by The Verge, CompuServe introduced them simply as a “way to distribute high-quality, high-resolution graphics in color.”

Talking about Wilhite’s work, his wife Kathleen explained, “He invented GIF all by himself – he actually did that at home and brought it into work after he perfected it. He would figure out everything privately in his head and then go to town programming it on the computer.”

Another thing Wilhite is known for is sharing the correct pronunciation of the word GIF with outlets like The New York Times where he explained GIF is actually pronounced as “jif” with a soft G. In that interview with The New York Times, Wilhite also mentioned that one of his favorite GIFs is the one of the dancing baby, which you can see here.

In his obituary, which you can read through here, additional information about Wilhite is shared including his love of traveling and camping.

In closing, we’re extremely saddened to hear of Wilhite’s passing, even as his legacy lives on in one of the internet’s most popular reaction tools, the GIF. How have GIFs impacted your online experience in a positive way? What have some of your favorite GIFs been? Feel free to share your thoughts with us in honor of Stephen Wilhite. 

Senior Editor

Morgan is a writer from the frozen wastelands of Maine who enjoys metal music, kpop, horror, and indie games. They're also a Tetris fanatic who's fiercely competitive in games like Tetris 99... and all games in general. But mostly Tetris. You can follow Morgan on Twitter @Author_MShaver.

From The Chatty
  • reply
    March 23, 2022 4:00 PM

    Morgan Shaver posted a new article, GIF creator Stephen Wilhite dead of COVID at age 74

      • reply
        March 23, 2022 4:22 PM

        I’m going to hell for laughing at that.

      • reply
        March 23, 2022 4:28 PM


        • reply
          March 23, 2022 11:22 PM

          Jodspeed is to Godspeed as ‘jif’ is to ‘gif’

          • reply
            March 24, 2022 5:56 AM

            yeah it's fuckin dumb lol

            • reply
              March 24, 2022 6:29 AM

              Wilhite strongly preferred "jif" to "gif" when asked how to pronounce GIF. He was, of course, wrong.

              • reply
                March 24, 2022 6:30 AM

                the letter G has more than one consonant sound (unless kindergarten lied to me)

                • reply
                  March 24, 2022 6:41 AM

                  Supporters of the hard G pronunciation maintain that since “graphics”, the first word that GIF is abbreviating, uses a hard G then the pronunciation should too.

                  Really though all it is is the most harmless thing to have a culture war about. I found it particularly amusing that old fart nerds like me saw this war happening in the early goddamned 90’s and then it went away until something like Vine gave the format new life. I’m still kinda amazed there hasn’t been a true successor.

                  • reply
                    March 24, 2022 6:54 AM

                    that's fine to believe that (albeit a faulty reason because lots of acronyms don't share the same letter pronunciations as the words they're abbreviating), but the whole "lol jodspeed jraphics" seems to show a lack of understanding of basic english since there are lots and lots of valid words with soft g sounds lol

            • reply
              March 24, 2022 6:38 AM

              I don’t know what you mean exactly. Twitter is pretty dumb. The tweet was tone deaf. But I’ll turn a blind eye to the pronunciation.

              lol no I won’t it’s gif with a ‘g’ you fuckin’ Hellen Kellers.

          • reply
            March 24, 2022 6:31 AM

            Oh hah I wasn't looking up there

    • reply
      March 24, 2022 6:02 AM


Hello, Meet Lola