Forex web trading platforms: the pros and cons
Online trading was introduced to the trading community in the late ‘70s and ‘80s, but only the floor traders in the stock exchanges had access to it. It became available to the general public in the ‘90s. Early web trading systems were the “request for quote” systems because they didn´t always show real-time prices, so traders had to wait for confirmation from the broker, stock exchange or the investment bank after they placed a trade. Nowadays, the execution is almost instant so you don´t need to get a confirmation. There are many different types of trading platforms today and web trading is one of them. It runs on a Java script which makes different programs accessible through internet. Unlike the other types trading platforms, which started to become the norm in the early 2000s, web trading became popular in the late 2000s. Web Forex trading platforms are now offered by most brokers. Although a web trading platform sounds similar to online trading desktop Forex platforms, it is quite different because it´s not a software package that you need to download on your PC. Instead, you execute trades through the web. As with every new technological development, there are upsides which the platform was designed for, but there are some downsides as well. We will explain both the advantages and disadvantages of web-based trading platform in this editorial.
The web trading platforms are relatively new to the forex industry.
Mobility – The most important element of a web-based platform is that you can trade from any remote location, as long as you have a computer and internet access. That is the reason these platforms were developed in the first place… it is very useful if you are a world traveller. Imagine if you have a large open position and the market is going against you… you could end up with a huge loss if you were away from your trading station. Similarly, if a good trading opportunity appears due to a sudden economic or political event and you are away from home, you would be missing out on a great opportunity. Web trading makes it possible to pop up in an internet café and simply trade from the web, it´s as easy as checking your email.
No need to download – The thing which makes web trading very easy and convenient is that you don´t have to download anything, unlike the PC-based platforms. With desktop trading platforms like the MT4, the downloading process is quite annoying and time consuming, but with web-based platforms you don´t need to go through the downloading process, just open your web page, enter your login details and you´re ready to trade.
No computer space – Following the logic of the previous paragraph, a web-based platform is not a software package which you have to download to your PC, as it relies on Java. Meaning it is only a web page so it doesn´t take up too much RAM space. About seven years ago, I used to have a computer with little RAM space andI had downloaded quite a few programs on it, so when I downloaded the MT4 it was quite slow and crashed very often. A web-based Forex platform is one less program for your PC.
Security – It´s true that the downloadable platforms, like the MT4, have enhanced security features which make it very difficult for hackers to crack, but web platforms are pretty secure as well. Though, we mean another aspect of security. I have had live trading accounts with several brokers whose platforms I downloaded on the laptop. The most annoying thing was that they don´t have a log-off option. When you close the platform the login details remain on the navigator screen, so whoever uses the laptop or the PC can open your platform without being asked to enter the password and go crazy on your account. The only way to remove your login details is by removing the platform altogether. With the web-based platforms, they don´t have this problem because you will always be asked for the username and password when you open it, even if you close it without logging out.
The charts of the web-trader platforms are customizable.
Customizing the charts – The charts of web-based platforms are as simple to use and read as any other platform. You can place all the indicators and customize them according to your preferences. The next time you open your web platform the charts will appear the same as they did before you closed it.
Compatibility – The MT4 downloadable platforms are designed for Windows PC, so you feel left out if you have a MAC computer. All web-based platforms are compatible with MAC computers and with many browsers, such as Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari etc.
Requires a speedy internet connection – One of the main downsides of the web-based platforms is that you have to have a fast internet connection. If you have a low-speed internet connection the data transmission and order execution will be slow, which isn’t amenable to the fast and volatile world of forex. So, you make sure to choose a reliable internet provider if you are going to use web platforms.
Web trading platforms might cause browser crashes and delayed execution.
Browser clog ups – When you trade, you have to check different financial websites continuously because the markets are heavily affected by the economical and political events and they could change in an instant. But when you are using web platforms you cannot open many web pages at the same time and this sucks up your resources. Apart from delayed executions you might even experience browser crashes.
Limited features – Although the web platforms have been improved during time, they have a lot less features and indicators than the desktop downloadable platforms, which might affect your analysis for worse and, therefore, your trading. Right now I have in front of me the web trader platform of FxPro which is a reputable name in the industry, but there is no signals section, no advanced charts... and not even a news feed. I don´t really use these features but many traders do so it´s an impairment for them when they use this platform.
No flexibility – We wrote above that one of the upsides of the web platforms is the ability to customize your charts, but the inability to customize the platform as a whole is definitely a disadvantage. You cannot change the sections of the platform or move them around. I am used to having my trading station set with my indicators and most of the other features at the bottom of the platform, but I cannot rearrange all the different sections of the web platforms, and this is definitely a downside for me.
No multiple charts – While a handful of them offer the option to open have up to four charts open at the same time, the rest of web platforms only allow one chart at a time. That´s not suitable for me at all since I like to keep the charts of 7-8 different currencies open continuously, so I can be updated with the price action of the major pairs all the time.
Lagging technology – Web trading platforms take several months to several years to develop in terms of new technology implementations, indicators etc. When a new feature for retail trading is developed, it is usually meant for the downloadable platforms. It takes a considerable amount of time until it is adjusted and implemented to the web platforms, so each new development comes several months late to the web platforms.
The retail trading industry has evolved and so have the trading platforms. Apart from the downloadable platforms, now the forex traders have the option of the web-based platforms so they can trade online through the internet browsers. The best thing about the web platforms, which is the reason they were developed, is that traders can trade from any computer without having to download a software package. This can be very useful to travellers who don´t have time or permission to download another platform. There are downsides to the web platforms, like having very limited EAs, lagging technology or inability to have many charts open, but it´s better to be in the market with a few less features than not being in the market at all. After all, they are not supposed to replace the downloadable platforms. Instead, they were developed as complement for the people who don´t have access to the PC-based platforms.