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55 Ways to Have Fun With Google. Go to Table of Contents. Visit Gifcom.

3. Memecodes: Survival of the Fittest Web Pages


Memecodes are web pages with randomly created texts which are born and die over the course of time. How is that possible? By basing those pages on the rules of evolution: the more often a page is found and clicked on in Google – the more popular it is – the more offspring it produces.

The title Memecodes is a word play on Richard Dawkins memes from his book “The Selfish Gene”1. In it, he wrote:

Examples of memes are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches. Just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool by leaping from body to body via sperms or eggs, so memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation.

I created this experiment in early 2004 to watch it grow, with some interesting results. Here’s how it worked in detail. First, based upon a dictionary of words, pages with random texts were created. To make sure the texts looked rather natural, words like “the” or “and” as well as punctuation were added. The resulting pages contained Jabberwockyish2 paragraphs such as this one:

Cognac? Is sloth is waist is declare of bramble flood in of stoical. Footman... Hesitancy a for attention flabby wanton and calculate vtol cyclamate that paprika feign the aline fourth qualifications of in. Thatch, Saccharin hansom rationale in dine numbers.

This page – or set of “genes” – was unique in the whole set of pages which made up the “ecosystem.” Now there was a possibility certain sentences or fragments of sentences made sense. One sentence, for example, contained the phrase “corpulent pigeons,” which someone