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Google tries to explain its search business as antitrust scrutiny rises

The tech giant faces several major competition lawsuits.

google-hq-sede-mountain-view.jpg
Google headquarters in Mountain View, California. 
Stephen Shankland/CNET

Google on Monday unveiled a revamped website explaining how its iconic search engine works, a move that comes as the tech giant faces increased antitrust scrutiny over the dominance of its juggernaut business. 

The website has sections on how Google operates targeted ads, which marketers buy and which are based on a user's personal data, and the tweaks the company makes to the search engine that affect what information people see.

"The website gives you a window into what happens from the moment you start typing in the search bar to the moment you get your search results," Danny Sullivan, Google's executive tasked with communicating the nuances of search to the public, said in a blog post. "It gives an overview of the technology and work that goes into organizing the world's information, understanding what you're looking for and then connecting you with the most relevant, helpful information."

The overhauled website, which is called How Search Works and was first launched in 2016, comes as Google faces several major antitrust lawsuits, including a landmark case by the US Department of Justice, and two complaints from bipartisan coalitions of states. Regulators and prosecutors are investigating everything from Google's app store to broader business practices around its Android operating system, the most dominant mobile software in the world.

But lawmakers have especially zeroed in on Google's dominance in web search, and on digital advertising. The company processes around 90% of all online searches in the US. That stranglehold on the market is the foundation of Google's massive advertising business, which generates almost all of the company's more than $180 billion in annual sales.

Google has also been criticized over how it displays search results. The company takes content from publishers and other websites, which has led to accusations it hurts competitors. The content is used in prepared answers in Google's search engine, instead of just providing the list of links the company surfaced in its early days. 

On the How Search Works website, Google says its approach has "evolved" over the years.