Credit to Donna for actually noticing and calling me on it though. But to try to clear things up a bit:
Many interpreted my winner-take-all post from January to mean that I thought startups shouldn't attempt to compete against Google. Not at all. In fact, I think startups are the only chance against Google. You need some kind of disruptive or market-changing innovation to succeed, since Google is just so damn good. For a variety of reasons, I think it's really hard for big companies to do that kind of work internally.
The comments on how to beat google have been really interesting. In particular this livesearch.alltheweb.com thing is kinda nifty. I guess it doesn't look like a Google killer to me, but I like it anyway.
Also the folks on Threadwatch reminded me about the raffle model. Iwon.com used this and acquired quite a bit of traffic quickly. Basically you run a lottery and give a million bucks or something to a random user of your search engine every day. Now Iwon was icky and no one in the search industry likes to think like a sweepstakes marketer, but the idea does have some pull.
Think about it this way. Google collects billions of dollars from advertisers. They fund a lot of non-search stuff over there. Where else could that money go? How about a loyalty rebate program back to users? Marketers have proposed various attention-buying schemes over the years. That's essentially what your Safeway or Harrah's card is. It's paying you money in return for your behavioral data, and permission to market to you. Loyalty and cash back programs are really popular and sticky. Now 5% cash back on my searches is bupkus, but if you pooled together everyone's and gave it all to one person every day...
That's crazy talk, even for me. ;-)