Talk about your executions! No sooner had E*Trade (NYSE:ET) offered guaranteed two-second stock trade executions on small orders yesterday than Standard & Poor's disclosed that the discount broker will replace FleetBoston Financial (NYSE:FBF) in its benchmark S&P 500 index.

FleetBoston had to go. Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) is now just days from closing its acquisition. It was logical for Standard & Poor's to seek out a worthy financial services company to take its place. But an online discount broker?

We've come a long way, Fool!

It was tricky for a while there, but a steady flight back into stocks coupled with a growing online populace have discount brokers back in vogue. This is reflected clearly in the stock performance of dot-com specialists like Ameritrade (NASDAQ:AMTD) and E*Trade, with both having more than doubled over the past year.

Our Broker Center has been a key part of our site through it all. We view empowering the individual investor as a worthy cause, and discount brokers play a role. That it's E*Trade going into the index is especially cool. Leading discount broker Charles Schwab (NYSE:SCH) and Toronto Dominion's (NYSE:TD) TD Waterhouse have been around for decades, but E*Trade is as close as you get to a poster child for the Web-fueled future.

E*Trade promotion to the big index is an endorsement for online brokers everywhere. The thrifty and self-sufficient have been heard.

Is finding a new broker as complicated as it seems? No. Have you checked out Broker Comparison Table lately? Who is the best discount broker for you? All this and more -- in the Discount Brokers discussion board. Only on

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has used online discount brokers since 1991. He likes the sector's chances but he does not own shares in any companies mentioned in this story.