Steve Wilhite

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Steve Wilhite
United States
Known forGIF
AwardsWebby Lifetime Achievement [1]
Scientific career
FieldsComputer science
InfluencedGraphics Interchange Format

Steve Wilhite is an American computer scientist who worked at CompuServe and was the primary creator of the GIF file format, which went on to become the de facto standard for 8-bit color images on the Internet until PNG became a viable alternative.[2] He developed the GIF (Graphic Interchange Format) in 1987. By 2016, the format had found mainstream use in website design, social media posts, workflow documents and how-to guides.[3]


Wilhite remained on the CompuServe/AOL payroll into the first decade of the 21st century, working on a variety of CompuServe systems. These included CompuServe's wire protocols, such as Host Micro Interface (HMI) and CompuServe B protocol for the CompuServe Information Manager (CIM), new service features in the early 1990s, Web chat software in the late 1990s, and investigating Web community models until his departure after being disabled by a stroke.[4] He has since partially recovered.

Before working with CompuServe Information Manager he ran a team that created compilers and run-time systems for use on the DECsytem-10 computers that were the major computing platforms used by CompuServe. Most notable were the Fortran and BASIC compilers and run-time systems and a substantial library called "BTOOLS" to support BLISS programming.

Wilhite's name comes up frequently in debate over the pronunciation of the GIF acronym.[4] "The Oxford English Dictionary accepts both pronunciations," Wilhite said. "They are wrong. It is a soft 'G,' pronounced 'jif.' End of story."[4] The intended pronunciation deliberately echoes the American peanut butter brand Jif.[5]


  1. ^ "Special Achievement - Lifetime Achievement". International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 2020-01-27.
  2. ^ "Confusion reigns on the Web over GIF patent claims". Network World. Vol. 12 no. 2. IDG Network World Inc. 9 January 1995. p. 126. ISSN 0887-7661.
  3. ^ Taylor, Mark (2017-01-13). "4 Trends in Web Design That Would Take Businesses to Greater Heights in 2017". LinkedIn. Retrieved 2020-01-27.
  4. ^ a b c O'Leary, Amy (21 May 2013). "An Honor for the Creator of the GIF". Bits - Business, Innovation, Technology, Society. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 2020-01-27.
  5. ^ Olsen, Steve. "The GIF Pronunciation Page". Retrieved 6 March 2009.