NUKE (the name deriving from 'New compositor') was originally developed by software engineer Phil Beffrey and later Bill Spitzak for in-house use at Digital Domain beginning in 1993. In addition to standard compositing, NUKE was used to render higher-resolution versions of composites from Autodesk Flame.
NUKE version 2 introduced a GUI in 1994, built with FLTK - an in-house GUI toolkit developed at Digital Domain. FLTK was subsequently released under the GNU LGPL in 1998.
In 2002, NUKE was made available to the public for the first time under the banner of D2 Software. In December 2005, D2 Software released NUKE 4.5, which introduced a new 3D subsystem.
In 2007, The Foundry, a London-based plug-in development house, took over development and marketing of NUKE from D2. The Foundry released NUKE 4.7 in June 2007, and NUKE 5 was released in early 2008, which replaced the interface with Qt and added Python scripting, and support for a stereoscopic workflow. NUKE supports use of The Foundry plug-ins via its support for the OpenFX standard (several built in nodes such as Keylight are OpenFX plugins).