Rich Skrenta recently posted 12 tips to creating a Google killer:
Grow a spine people! You have a giant growing market with just one dominant competitor, not even any real #2. You're going to do clean-tech energy saving software to shut off lightbulbs in high-rises instead? Pfft. Get a stick and try to knock G's crown off.
Rich's tips are largely centered around niche targeting and branding.
I think the easiest way to take them out would be to create some type of game that offered rewards, collected user data, built in social network features, and then bolt a recommendation engine onto it, and slowly morph that into search.
A few other approaches might be...
- if they lose copyright challenges try to create something similar to the Wikipedia that was blog / news / channel oriented then bake search into a trusted network
- co-brand your offering with a popular religion and talk about how it is family safe (while painting users of the competing service as socially unacceptable perverts and other outliers)
- buy out premium publishers and domain names and create a system that allows individuals or small groups to create high quality profitable communities
- build an ad and search network on the back of free phone communications