Way back in the year 2000, MetaQuotes, a Russian software development company, released its entry for the online retail trading industry – MetaTrader 4 or MT4 for short. Little did they know at the time that they had a winner on their hands, especially in the fledgling retail forex trading arena. In a few short years, it became the standard, accepted by both brokers and traders and has yet to loosen its monopolistic grip on forex trading platforms, despite its parent company’s release of MT5 in 2010.
There are several reasons for the intransigence of the marketplace to shift from this coveted product line, having primarily to do with its features, third-party support, and the user-friendly aspects that are engrained in its global customer base. Yes, MT5 has better features, liquidity access, broader coverage capabilities, and a lot more, but many analysts claim that the enhanced MT5 platform is designed to fill the needs of brokers, not necessarily those of the traders using it. MT5 is not backward compatible, such that MT4 plug-ins and EAs will not work in the upgraded environment, a real negative.
What has been the market response? By last estimate, there are over 700 different forex trading platforms on the market. Many of these are proprietary versions designed to appeal to the more sophisticated trader or are modified versions of the MT4 package. Even though MT4 is a “closed system”, not open source code, there have been a number of third parties that have used the MQL4 software coding language to design various add-ons to improve or enhance the basic MT4 package.
According to one reporter at FinanceMagnates:
There is no doubt that the current version of MetaTrader has stood the test of time. It enjoys unparalleled reputation, and has every feature a trader would need – countless charting tools, over 1,700 trading robots and 2,100 technical indicators in the MT4 Market, copy trading, alerts, financial news and mobile trading on iOS & Android.
One might thiisplaces the “Top Dog”, MT4 would suffer when competitors offered far superior products, but simplicity and intuitive interfaces have worked their magic with forex traders that shun overly complicated platforms that display crowded screenshots with way too much information. The last thing a trader needs is something that distracts him from his primary goal, which is to react to market conditions. Too many features lead to information overload, which leads to decision-making paralysis.
Yes, MT4 definitely has a few weak points, which traders have willingly overlooked, but what are its big selling points? Here are five reasons for the record:
- Industry Breadth: Let’s start with the big plus. Nearly any broker that you go to will more than likely have a “free” MT4 package that you can download for immediate use. Over a year or so back, MetaQuotes discontinued selling the MT4 package to new forex brokers, thereby forcing the issue. If they stopped supporting it entirely, look for a Chinese copy to replace it in an instant. The Russian firm could sue, but the damage would have already been done. There have been some brokers like Saxo Bank, which jettisoned MT4 in 2015 in deference to its own internal SaxoTradeGo and SaxoTraderPro series, but that is one strategy that may have worked for them, but not for other competitors.
- User Experience: MT4 receives a major plus here, as well. Its interface is user friendly and easy to tackle to get right into trading immediately. What’s more, if you switch brokers or your broker is acquired, as long as you have access to MT4, you do not have to start all over again learning a new system. If you do want more sophistication, there is an active external market that can assist you, too, with plug-ins, additional indicators, and Expert Advisors (EAs).
- Charting: MT4’s charting capabilities are extensive, but it has received criticism that it is not extensive enough. We live in an age where programmers produce upgrades to do all manner of things that are nice, but not necessary. The last thing a trader wants or needs is “clutter” on his screen or a host of icons, begging for him to toggle to see what “neat” new feature has been added. There are nine timeframes at the ready, a bevy of indicators and add-ons, if you so desire, but the overriding theme is “Keep it simple stupid!”
- Ability to Customize: If MT4 has anything, it has the capacity for unparalleled customization. Nearly any screen format, indicator, you name it – you can make it look and act as you need. It may not have some of the more advanced features that some proprietary platforms boast of, but there is an entire community of programmers that have built plug-in tools that could satisfy your every need. As noted above, there are “over 1,700 trading robots and 2,100 technical indicators”.
- Automated Trading: What about copy trading, alerts, signal services, robots and EAs? Now we get to the area that makes changing to MT5 such an unneeded hassle. There are a plethora of automated solutions that have been developed for MT4. None will readily work on MT5 or any other platform for that matter. There is also a marketplace, where you can access these services and products, and MetaQuote does vet signal service purveyors for a month and publish ongoing results to eliminate the possibility of fraud, which is rampant in the external market.
MT4 has obviously stood the test of time and has a loyal fan base across the globe, the reason why it is still the standard in the retail forex trading arena. To summarize, this statement by CM Trading on its brokerage website is compelling:
The MT4 trading platform is one of the most versatile, secure and stable tools in a retail trader’s arsenal. The simplicity of the platform is second to none, but it doesn’t mean it compromises on useful features and advanced solutions for the more experienced trader.
The broker goes on to add:
Even most seasoned traders prefer MT4 when it comes to conducting their market analysis and executing their trades. The majority of brokerages include MT4 in their offering even if they have their own proprietary trading platforms and this is a testament to MT4’s popularity and widespread adoption in the industry.