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

did indeed search for in Google. As soon as that happened and the searcher clicked on the Memecodes result, this particular page created offspring – it “mated” with the searcher, if you will. The offspring of any page was the same page slightly mutated by randomly replacing some of its words. This way, maybe “corpulent pigeons” became “corpulent pink pigeons” (surely that would have had the chance to be an even more successful gene) or it could turn into “corpulent tower pigeons” (and face certain death over time, because rarely do people search for such a thing!).

How did pages die then? There was a page population limit of a little over 2,000 pages. Whenever a new page was born, the oldest page would be removed (the link from the front-page of the Memecodes experiment pointing to this page would be removed). If a page didn’t manage to create offspring until then, its genes were unsuccessful in surviving and would therefore not be continued.

Other genes (random texts) would be more successful, though. And some of the successful pages would become even more successful in turn, possibly finding a natural search niche to settle into: they lured more and more searchers to find them by creating more and more “natural language.” One day, the pages might even turn into Shakespeare, and it wouldn’t need infinite monkeys to pull it off! Or rather, that was my hope. But evolution takes a lot of time to show results, and after little more than a year, I stopped the experiment. Until then, however, a lot of people found their way onto the site and thus produced offspring. All in all, a walloping 10,022 pages were born (about 2,500 of those seed pages created automatically in the beginning), with some Memecodes in their 5th generation.

Some of the popular sentences were truly strange, like “feel the wrath of salivating mushroom eating frog aliens with microwave ovens,” or the more down-to-earth “seagull sandwich.” Other sentences were circling around the word “torrent,” because “Torrents” had started to become a popular way to download video and other files on the web. The only clearly recognizable pattern in successful genes, however, were exotic words and word combinations I can’t even print here for reasons you might be able to guess: they were all about “adult” topics. Then again, I guess that’s nature!

End Notes

1. Dawkins, R. (1976). The Selfish Gene. (