Most of us have spent a considerable amount of time on the Internet looking at looping images of cats being cute and people being stupid in general. The big daddy of that format – GIF, or Graphics Interchange Format – has received a lifetime achievement award at the Webby Awards last night.
While everyone is delighted that Steve Wilhite is receiving this award, in the run up to the ceremony, the father of GIFs has expressed his annoyance at something; he’s not too pleased with the multiple pronunciations his creation is referred to as. Some people call it “Jiff” while others call it “Gif”. Wilhite has made it plenty clear how it is supposed to be pronounced, though. “The Oxford English Dictionary accepts both pronunciations,” he said, “They are wrong. It is a soft 'G,' pronounced 'jif.' End of story.”
It's a “Jiff”, people!
The announcement ended up sparking a minor outrage on social networking sites like Twitter. “This just in: GIF is pronounced 'jiff'. Accordingly, I will be pronouncing JPG as ‘gay-peg’,” wrote @dan_crowley while @jsmooth995 tweeted, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward pronouncing GIF with a hard ‘G’”
Whatever the case maybe, there is no doubt that the GIF format has been an integral part of shaping Internet to be what it is today. We’ve all seen the dancing baby animated GIF and the “Peanut butter jelly time” dancing banana that was probably the forum signature of every other member of sites back in the day.
The format itself was invented back in 1987 and has stuck with generations of Internet users ever since. “It’s been an incredibly enduring piece of technology,” David-Michel Davies, Executive Director, The Webby Awards, said. “Even as bandwidth has expanded, it has been very exciting to see how much cultural cachet the format has gotten.”
Congratulations on the Webby Award, Steve Wilhite! And thanks for all the “jiffs”.