Although MetaTrader is wildly popular among retail traders, most US brokers drug their feet with offering it. The technology is fairly low end from the broker’s perspective. MetaTrader can only support 100,000 simultaneous users, a barrier that many of the largest US brokerages encounter.
Many of them faced tremendous difficulties getting MetaTrader to work in a manner compatible with their existing platforms. When I worked as a broker at FXCM, the company spent over a year trying to build a solution internally to bridge the FX Trading Station platform with MetaTrader. The technology department eventually gave up and outsourced the work to Boston Technologies, which is how that company got started. There are now a number of companies in the forex market that specialize in building bridges between MetaTrader and other platforms. These companies are largely necessary – most brokerages need specialist firms to simply get their MT4 platforms working properly.
MB Trading is among one of the more successful integrations that I’ve seen. I’ve been running a market making strategy in their MetaTrader platform since the middle of August. Although it works great now, I initially received a couple of non-sensical error messages when programming my Expert Advisor. The message “Off quotes” kept appearing after rapidly attempting to change entry order parameters. Even when I attempted to close the order manually, the error message would appear. Closing MetaTrader and reopening it was the only way to force the error to go away.
Nonetheless, MB Trading’s MetaTrader department was great with helping me solve the issue. I think they must have spent 12 hours fixing it, even though it was only a mini account. I have not had any problems over the past few months.
Oanda comes up a lot more now that they made it over the hump and got their platform working. One major disadvantage, however, is that their implementation removes the Order Comment from the platform. We discovered this the hard way when our first Oanda trader kept insisting that his EA did not work about six months ago. We had no idea what he was talking about until we opened up their platform and, sure enough, the EA went berserk.
Oanda’s solution to its bridge problem poses problems for many of its clients. Oanda took over the order comment field, using it for their own purposes to track Metatrader tickets inside of their proprietary platform. MetaTrader programmers often use the order comment to track a position, especially with many Martingale strategies. When an EA depends on the order comment field to track a position and the broker overwrites the comments, then it causes absolute chaos. MetaTrader programmers wonder why the EA seems to randomly break, and it causes the broker a ton of headaches.
These are the types of issues that brokers deal with when offering MetaTrader as a platform. Add in the expense of the clunky technology and it explains why so many brokers offer MetaTrader reluctantly. The fee for a full MetaTrader 4 license started at $150,000 a few years ago. I’m not sure where it’s at now.
MetaTrader 5 is considerably higher. I’ve heard rumors of a major UK forex company paying $750,000+ just for the installation. That does not include annual fees based on the number of users. It apparently takes days just to install the server software. Like any new piece of technology, everyone knows that the first users are the guinea pigs that find the bugs. I doubt that many brokerages are excited about putting their businesses in the line of fire to beta test someone else’s software. I bet they’re even less excited about paying so much for it.
When MetaTrader 5 does eventually come out, it’s going to break everyone’s EAs. MetaQuotes decided to completely scrap MQL4 and replace it with MQL5. For all the hooplah that MetaQuotes pushes, my opinion is that it makes programming in MetaTrader three times more time consuming (i.e., three times more expensive) for relatively minor benefits. Yes, the code does run faster. Yes, you can backtest on multiple pairs. And yes, you can use objects to track information more easily. That’s about it.
The result is that five years worth of EA development eventually gets pushed out the door. Brokers get flooded with calls asking why old Expert Advisors don’t work anymore. Businesses that sell Expert Advisors need to reprogram their products, which does not benefit them at all. Independent traders that trade with robots either have to convert their EAs at additional expense or eventually get phased out. Oh, and the release date is about 2 years behind schedule. It’s no wonder that the big brokerages are less than enthusiastic about MetaTrader.