Top Web search engine Google Inc. began taking bids Friday for the public auction process it will use to sell as much as $3.3 billion shares to the public for its planned offering in mid-August.

A Google spokeswoman confirmed that http://www.ipo.google.com had gone live, where bidders can apply to get an identification number to participate in the so-called Dutch auction (search).

The auction process is designed to put small retail investors on a more equal footing with the big institutional funds and influential investors who have traditionally been given better access.

Potential investors would submit bids that include the price they are willing to pay and the number of shares they are willing to buy.

Based on that, Google and its underwriting bankers, Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse Group First Boston, will determine the highest price at which there is demand for all of the shares, called the clearing price.

The offer price will be at or below the clearing price.

Google, itself, advised in a filing earlier this week that it expects to sell its shares for between $108 and $135 each through an online auction expected next month, which could value the company at more than $36 billion.

Some investors have already begun to question whether the Mountain View, Calif., company's growth prospects justified that rich valuation.

Also on Google's new auction Web site is a video presentation by Google's management, including founders Sergey Brin (search) and Larry Page (search).

The prospectus, as well as a slide presentation and financial information from Securities and Exchange Commission (search) filings, are also available on the page.