Websites show they're up to the minute on shares

The Hi-Tech Investor
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The Independent Online

The battle to win the hearts and minds of internet investors is becoming more intense by the week.Share prices and information are clearly this summer's favourite features for websites. The latest companyto join the fray is Freequotes, which has just launched its own share information service. As the namesuggests, the data is free.

The battle to win the hearts and minds of internet investors is becoming more intense by the week.Share prices and information are clearly this summer's favourite features for websites. The latest companyto join the fray is Freequotes, which has just launched its own share information service. As the namesuggests, the data is free.

Freequotes is linked to themutual.net, a free internet service that has also just launched. The idea behindthemutual.net is that its users will also be shareholders in the company. Anyone who signs up to usethemutual.net for their net access is entitled to an equity stake in the firm.

Only internet users who register with themutual.net can use Freequotes. However, net users can becomemembers of themutual.net without using it as their internet service provider, and still qualify to useFreequotes.

Once users have logged on, they can build a portfolio of stocks and view real-time prices. Most otherinternet sites either show prices with a 15-minute delay, or they charge for access. As Simon Wajcenberg,joint managing director of Freequotes, says: "Anyone who trades stocks and shares will know that 15minutes is a long time."

As well as prices, Freequotes supplies financial news from AFX and charting from Bigcharts. The site isone of the more basic investment information services, and some parts are a little tricky to use. The hot listof stocks, for example, can be hard to read. The site also displays advertisements which are aimed at a USaudience. One advert displayed on Freequotes was for online stockbroking from Morgan Stanley DeanWitter, a service that is only open to US investors.

Nor is Freequotes the only company offering free real-time stock prices. UK Invest provides a similarservice, either through Freeserve or directly to visitors to its website. Net users who want real-time pricinghave to fill in a simple registration form, but there are no other charges.

UK Invest is rapidly becoming one of the most comprehensive personal finance sites on the net. Theservice also provides a range of articles on investment, business and personal finance. Much of this isavailable to anyone, even if they choose not to register.

Like Freequotes, UK Invest provides market news and charting for individual stocks. The design andlayout of the service is more sophisticated and attractive, but this does come at a cost. UK Invest's pagestake longer to load, and part of the site uses Java. Users of older computers or older web browsers willfind that some features, such as the charts, work less than perfectly on their machines. For investors whowant the basics quickly, Freequotes probably has the edge; for internet users who want more detail, UKInvest is worth a look.

Freequotes: www.freequotes.co.uk UK Invest: www.ukinvest.com (or via www.freeserve.net)

Stephen Pritchard can be contacted at Hi-tech-investor@dial.pipex.com

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