Back in the day, all the way upto Win7/8.1, You had personal possession of the key. It came printed on the book, printed on a sticker on the case etc. With the switch to Win10+, Microsoft finally got tired of trying to chase ppl buying 1 key and using it on half a dozen pc's, so They keep the key now, it's listed under the Microsoft Account you had to set up.
That gives Microsoft a much easier way to keep track of users keys and can spot a duplicate in a heartbeat with little to no effort.
When you upgrade to 10 from 7/8.1, your Win7 key is changed, and Microsoft reapplies that changed key to your account as a new Win10 key. So if you change an old pc, or build a new pc, you can goto Microsoft account, remove or change the old and re-register the new under the same key. This invalidates the windows activation on the old pc, if there is one.
What it boils down to is you as a user no longer own the key, you just rent it with a one time payment, from Microsoft, who only allows it to be activated on a single pc at any given time.