Google has maybe the best business model of all time. It has a fantastic flywheel and technical advantage that has remained free of serious competitors for the last 23 years. But a new crop of competitors is springing up in an age of free-flowing capital. And big, well-funded names are coming after Google's business. offers an ad-free subscription-based search and was founded by the ex-SVP of Google Ads, Sridhar Ramaswamy. puts data sources front and center and was founded by ex-EVP and chief scientist of Salesforce, Richard Socher.

I don't think either of these companies will displace Google. But as a thought exercise ā€” how would you compete and win against Google Search?

Many of these companies try to take Google Search head-on. So instead, I'd start by asking ā€” where is Google weakest? Attacking distribution at the fringes seems like an excellent place to start.

Where is Google strongest? While it's true that ad load on Search and YouTube has increased dramatically over the last few years, free is hard to beat.

Creating Value

Search is extremely valuable to us. Erik Brynjolfsson, a researcher now at Stanford, did some work to show that an average user would require compensation of $17,000 to forego search engines for a year (you might remember Brynjolfsson from my post on Measuring Productivity in GDP). That's a lot of surplus.

Capturing Value

Google is great at capturing value from that surplus. Google's average revenue per user (ARPU) for search is extremely high. It's hard to separate nowadays, but I've seen ARPU estimates from $100 - $250 / year. Would you pay that much for search? Your alternative should probably generate a higher ARPU (or have a wholly different business model).

Fun exercise, but I don't recommend trying to compete against Google Search!