With the growth of the internet, and the advent of the World Wide Web, the stock market moved online, and online trading was born. I think companies found it cheaper to have people place their orders online as they didn’t have a person taking the order, and punching it into a computer. With online trading the customer could get instant stock quotes, have access to various stock tools, and place the order themselves. Since the cost was lower, the brokerages could make more money. So various the brokerages started lowering commissions for online trading, trying to get more customers. These days, it is pretty easy to find commissions of only $7 per trade, or even less. Through my own online broker, I pay only $2.99 per trade (window trades).
The lower transaction costs of online trading made it possible to buy stocks, and then sell them again after they have risen only slightly, and still make a profit. This gave rise to day trading. Day traders rapidly buy and sell stocks throughout the day in the hope that their stocks will continue climbing or falling in value for the seconds to minutes they own the stock, allowing them to lock in quick profits.
People seeing that it is possible to make a lot of money quickly have jumped in with both feet. But it is also possible to lose a lot of money quickly as well.
With this large audience of people wanting to get rich quick, the stock trading mentality has given rise to various systems, and stock trading gurus who will be happy to tell you how to get rich for a fee. They pocket the fee, getting rich, while you day-trade your savings to oblivion.
So in ways, online trading has been very beneficial to serious investors. But online trading has also lead to an almost legal form of gambling.
Good or bad, online trading is here to stay.