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Finally: The inventor of the GIF explains how to pronounce it

Enter Steve Wilhite, who invented the Graphics Interchange Format in the 1990s, with the authoritative response.

Steve Wilhite is being honoured with a special award at this year's Webby Awards.
Steve Wilhite is being honoured with a special award at this year's Webby Awards.
Image: Webby Awards

THE INVENTOR of the GIF – the old-school animated image format which has been given a new lease of life on Tumblr and elsewhere – has given an authoritative answer on how ‘GIF’ should be pronounced.

Steve Wilhite invented the Graphics Interchange Format while working for one of the original major ISPs, CompuServe, in the late 1980s.

While the GIF’s main attribute was its way of compressing images so they could load more quickly over a dial-up connection, what made it totally unique was the fact that it could incorporate animations – a technique which brought plain 1990s webpages to life.

However, over the years a significant dispute has emerged over how the name should be pronounced – with some using the intuitive hard G, as in ‘graphics’, while others see it as a soft G and pronounced as if it was a ‘J’.

Wilhite – who today is being honoured with a lifetime achievement prize at the Webby Awards – has now confirmed his pronunciation of choice.

“The Oxford English Dictionary accepts both pronunciations,” Wilhite told the New York Times, before insisting:

They are wrong. It is a soft ‘G,’ pronounced ‘jif.’ End of story.

Wilhite also said he had never made an animated GIF himself – but that this was his favourite one.

This one’s for you, Steve:


Read: What have the words GIF and omnishambles got in common?

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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