*This article was updated on June 7, 2017*
The Real Story Behind Forex Trading Platforms
Forex traders have a choice of which trading platform to use. However, this choice is interlinked with the choice of Forex broker, as not every type of trading platform is offered by every broker. Moreover, some brokers do not have true compatibility with certain Forex trading platforms, but offer access to them through a bridge, which is a piece of software that connects a Forex broker’s dealing system with the platform. This can work satisfactorily, but if the bridge malfunctions or is slow it can adversely affect trade execution and management.
The Metatrader 4 trading platform is very well known and can definitely be said to set the industry standard. I have never seen a Forex broker that does not either offer trading directly through the platform or through an in-house bridge to the platform, although this can be at the cost of a slightly higher spreads and/or commissions. The Metatrader 5 trading platform is somewhat less commonly offered, although it is produced by the same company (the Cyprus-based MetaQuotes Software Corporation). To understand why this is the case, we need to take a closer look at the platform.
What is MT5?
Because Metatrader 5 was released in 2010, five years after the release of Metatrader 4 and at a time when Metatrader 4 was already very popular, and due also to the number sequence in the platform names, there is a common misapprehension that Metatrader 5 was a new improved version of Metatrader 4, designed to do the same job better. This is not really true at all, although it is a trading platform and back testing machine just as Metatrader 4 is, and the graphical user interfaces look and feel fairly similar. Any adequate Metatrader review should point this out.
Metatrader 5 was actually designed to do some things that Metatrader 4 could not do. In reality, it was aimed at a different market, and thus, there is really very little reason to enter a discussion about “MT4 vs. MT5”.
Essentially, Metatrader 5 was designed to be able to trade markets other than Forex, such as stocks and commodities, essentially because it is better able to plug into a centralized trading exchange. Forex is a completely decentralized market, with a number of major players providing liquidity into this huge market at slightly different prices, in an uncoordinated fashion. Stocks and commodities, the latter of which is traded largely as a futures contract (infact several contracts with different expiry dates), must usually be traded through a centralized process before ownership can change hands with full legal effect. At the time of the MT5 development and release, it can be assumed that Metaquotes foresaw a retail stocks and commodities trading boom, and designed the software to fit that market.
The other major differential design factor was its compliance with the U.S.A.’s “no hedging rule”, which states that clients of Forex brokers in the U.S.A. must deal on a F.I.F.O. (first in, first out) basis. This means that if for example a trader goes long 1 lot of EUR/USD, and then goes long an additional 1 lot of EUR/USD, the first trade must be closed before the second trade can be closed. While Metatrader 4 logs every trade individually and allows for management of each individual position separately, Metatrader 5 automatically aggregates all positions. Therefore, only Metatrader 4 can deal with hedging: Metatrader 5 caxnnot. This is fine for traders in the U.S.A. as they are legally barred from hedging in any case, but in most of the rest of the world, many traders find an inability to execute hedging operations a very annoying an unnecessary handicap. It is probably the major reason why many traders have come to feel annoyed at being “pushed” into using Metatrader 5 in the place of Metatrder 4 by their brokers and arguably by MetaQuotes as well.
So in a nutshell, Metatrader 5 was developed to attract non-Forex markets and U.S. markets and to meet the inherent needs of those markets better than Metatrader 4 could. That is the true story of MT4 vs. MT5.
What is the Difference Between MT4 and MT5 Forex Trading Platforms?
The two major differences have already been covered, but there are a number of others worth mentioning within any MT4 and MT5 comparison.
Metatrader 5 uses a programming language called MQL5 as opposed to the MQL4 used by Metatrader 4. The exciting thing about MQL5 is that it allows “black box” programming which, in a nutshell, means that it is easier to program and so will logically be a better framework for users and developers of trading robots and other expert advisors. However, MetaQuotes expanded this capability into MQL4 in 2014, so it is not a difference between the platforms any more, although there is a likelihood that if the language is upgraded at some time in the future, MetaQuotes will not extend any upgrades into MQL4 as well as MQL5
It should be noted that there is no backwards compatibility. Programs written for Metatrader 4 cannot run on Metatrader 5. This can be a serious drawback for traders who were wishing to “upgrade”, and is a key reason why such a change shouldn’t be seen as an upgrade.
It is true that Metatrader 5 retains two key programming-related advantages over Metatrader 4. Firstly, its back testing functions where you can test programmed trading strategies execute at a much faster speed, which is a feature that can save you a lot of time if you are the kind of trader who needs to run a large number of back tests. It also allows simultaneous multi-currency pair back testing. Together this can speed up back testing procedures immeasurably.
Which Trading Platform is Better for You?
The answer to this question should seem pretty clear by now after reading the above MT4 and MT5 comparison. If you have to comply with U.S. regulations for whatever reason, want to do a great deal of back testing using the platform offline, or want access to stock and commodities exchanges that are hard to reach through Metatrader 4, then Metatrader 5 is the obvious choice for you.
It has to be said that otherwise, there is no reason not to use Metatrader 4, which remains a tried and tested gold standard platform of the industry. It is far more popular than Metatrader 5, and for good reason: it is easy to use and manage and has generally less glitches than its browser-based competitor platforms.
A Trader’s Perspective
Most seasoned traders will tell you that all they really want from a trading platform is something that is reliable and easy to use, intuitive, and doesn’t crash. They will also tell you that although Metatrader 4 might have a few annoying features, it works well enough, and allows them to stay on top of their trades and charts at the same time. As the choice of broker is really more important than choice of platform, all the platform-centered advertising and Metatrader reviews are mostly just gimmicks that are best overlooked since practically every broker offers access to Metatrader 4.