Google has so transcended its function as a search engine that it is now an all-purpose verb to describe any hunt for information on the Internet. But with European Union regulators announcing an investigation into Google’s business practices on Tuesday, the California-based tech giant is probably hoping this is one search that delivers no results.

Although Google can boast extraordinary success since its founding 12 years ago, the European Commission — the E.U. antitrust watchdog — could represent its most serious challenge yet. If the Commission finds the world’s favorite search engine guilty of abusing its dominant position, Google could face a fine of up to 10% of its annual revenue, which would total a massive $2.4 billion based on 2009 figures.

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