by John Bajkowski
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|Annual Review of Comprehensive Web Sites|
In another indication that the era of free robust investment service on the Internet may be coming to end, Intuit is limiting access to the Quicken.com Web site. Soon, only registered users of U.S. versions of its popular Quicken personal finance software program (Quicken 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004) will qualify for full free access.
Intuit has offered many useful and proprietary tools on its Web site to attract investors and sell them software products, services and financial products. Intuit seemed successful in attracting investors. Nearly one-third of our AAII members use Quicken.com when performing portfolio and investment analysis on the Web.
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But apparently, not enough revenue was being generated from this free site to justify the cost and expense of maintaining and developing the site. Perhaps Quicken software customers were upset that they were helping to subsidize the Web site. Certainly, free access to Quicken.com feels more valuable now that it is available to registered software users only.
Beyond restricting access to Quicken customers, Intuit is also shifting from providing completely proprietary tools to quotes and research supplied by Yahoo! Finance. It is keeping some of its tools—such as the stock and mutual fund evaluator and the one-click scorecard—but most of the data now comes from Yahoo! Finance.
Intuit has removed banner advertising from the site. And the company promises that future improvements will make the Quicken.com site an even more valuable and exclusive tool for Quicken software users. Intuit indicates that the changes are part of a planned migration that will make Quicken.com a more integrated component of the Quicken software experience for customers who choose to monitor their investments on-line.
Intuit offers a Yahoo! Finance portfolio migration tool for Quicken.com users who do not wish to buy their software program. Users have until April 15, 2005, to migrate their portfolios to Yahoo! Finance. However, as of June 30, 2004, the portfolio information sent to Yahoo! Finance will be up to date only as of the last time it was viewed prior to June 30, 2004. The portfolio account information that will be transferred will include the symbols and names of the stocks and funds, as well as the number of shares, cost basis and commission paid for each position. The information is transferred via a secure connection using industry-standard SSL encryption.
Time will tell if Intuit has made a smart move by limiting access to its Web site. Other sites such as Morningstar.com and SmartMoney.com have kept basic tools and information free, while charging a fee for advanced features. Intuit normally releases new versions of its software in the fall. It will be interesting to see if they have any major changes planned for this years release.