Douwe Osinga's Blog: The Software bots will takeover the Internet.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

The robots will not overtake the world anytime soon, but the software robots might. The googlebot of course already rules a big part of our life, but is supposedly still controlled by its masters. Soon enough the Internet and the systems around it, will be developed enough to sustain independently evolving software bots.

What am I talking about? Well, imagine a program that uses Google to determine what is popular content on the Internet and maybe something like AdSense to determine what is content that people will pay for to have their ads appear on. Now our little program downloads this kind of content and fills a website with it. The content will obviously be stolen and the site probably won’t be that readable, but it will do great as a place to advertise.

Now imagine we don’t have one of such a program running, but a dozen or something. They surf the web and do some blog spamming, post to mailing list copies of old mails but with replaced signatures pointing to their own site and maybe even sent mail to webmasters to exchange links. Oh, and they exchange links with each other. Even with the Florida Google Dance, their Google ratings will rise and soon income through it will too.

Now for the clever bit, as Ford would say: the programs are actually scripts running inside web pages in JSP/PHP/ASP or whatever it is that works for you. They are triggered when anybody visits a page. As soon as any of these programs/websites/soft bots has gathered more than a certain amount of money, he’ll opens a new account with a web hosting company and copies his pages and scripts to this new account. It will also open a PayPal account or similar and enroll the new website in an advertising program . Then all links are cut and both soft bots go their own way: money making artificial life.

In a way, the setup is similar to how the MS Blaster worm rampaged over the Internet, but these soft bots are not really parasites. Well, they copy content and try to achieve Google rankings by less that fresh methods (actually quite a few websites do that), but they pay for their own hosting and stuff. They render a, be it dodgy, service to surfers, i.e. people looking for certain content on Google end up at sites who pay for visitors like that. You can call it search engine spamming or Google rebalancing.

If you could make them relatively intelligent and make them evolve, they could become part of the Internet ecosystem. May be they would start out as a rather low life-form, but for a long time that was the only place where the money was (come to think of it, they would probably evolve pretty fast into pornbots.) But on the long run, some of them would find niches that worked better and start rendering useful services, just like the rest of Internet. Who knows, some might learn how to blog.