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    Creator of GIF, Stephen Wilhite, dies from COVID-19

    Creator of GIF, Stephen Wilhite, dies from COVID-19

    Creator of GIF, Stephen Wilhite, dies from COVID-19
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    By CNBCTV18.com  IST (Updated)


    GIF is pronounced ‘jif’ (with a soft 'G'), Wilhite had cleared once and for all.

    While Stephen Wilhite may not be a familiar name to most, Wilhite’s impact would have been felt by almost everyone who uses the internet. The 74-year-old was the creator of the popular GIF format and died last week due to COVID-19.

    Wilhite’s death was announced through an obituary, which noted that “even with all his accomplishments, he remained a very humble, kind, and good man.”

    Wilhite was surrounded by family when he passed away, his wife Kathleen told The Verge.

    Wilhite began his career at Compuserve, the first major commercial online service provider, where he created the looping Graphics Interchange Format, or GIF, in 1987. The GIF format was created to add coloured images in small manageable sizes to webpages.

    The format provided 8-bit of data per pixel which then had the choice of 256 different colours from the 24-bit RGB space. The creation of the format would go on to result in disagreements over the Lempel–Ziv–Welch (LZW) lossless data compression system used by Compuserve and directly resulted in the creation of the Portable Network Graphics (PNG) standard, which went on to replace GIF.

    However, GIFs found newfound popularity with the dawn of social media platforms and easily accessible internet where individuals would create and share GIFs. In 2012, GIF was also the word of the year according to the Oxford American Dictionary due to its popularity.

    Though debates have raged over the pronunciation of the format, Wilhite himself stated that GIF was pronounced with a soft ‘g’ or ‘jif.’ “The Oxford English Dictionary accepts both pronunciations. They are wrong. It is a soft ‘G,’ pronounced ‘jif.’ End of story,” he told The New York Times in 2013.

    Wilhite was also responsible for several other developments at Compuserve but the creation of the GIF format was the thing he was most proud of, stated his wife Kathleen. He was even awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Webby Awards for his invention and his contribution to internet culture in 2013.

    With the news of his passing, many across the internet have posted their own tributes through GIFs honouring the man who created an essential part of today’s internet culture.

    Wilhite’s funeral service was held on March 23 in Milford, Ohio. He is survived by his wife, four stepchildren, a son, 11 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, according to his obituary.

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