I'm not much of a sic dog, a bad cop, or an Ebenezer Scrooge. But I still felt like my heart was two sizes too small after I ripped into Google Finance three weeks ago. My bites usually aren't venomous, but I took Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) portal to task for failing to live up to the grand expectations that I had after the site's launch in the springtime of 2006.

In short, the landing page was a little too cluttered for my taste, and a few of the stock-based discussion boards appeared to be draped in cobwebs.

"I'd complain about it on the Google Finance stock board," I wrote at the time, "but what would be the point? Who would notice? Who would respond?"

Well, I did get someone to respond. Katie Jacobs Stanton, group product manager at Google Finance, agreed to answer a few questions about the portal. Even before getting hold of her, I had a bit of a mea culpa moment.

I decided to give Google Finance more than just a quick kiss-off. Reading about the simplicity of its ability to import portfolio listings from other websites, I gave it a tricky AOL portfolio to munch on. It responded like a champ. And that one simple step -- which really took just a matter of seconds -- transformed that cluttered landing page into a collection of resources that is actually relevant to my active market positions.

In the end, I was guilty of simply not giving the portal a chance to live up to the hype.

With that out of the way, let's get into Stanton's responses.

Google's side of the story
Rick Aristotle Munarriz: Google Finance's launch last year came years after Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO) and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) hit the scene. How is Google Finance different? What is it bringing to the table?

Katie Jacobs Stanton: Google Finance was a natural extension of Google's overall mission to better organize the world's information and make it universally accessible. Google Finance was designed to help users find the most relevant, useful, and comprehensive financial information as quickly as possible. In the past, users have often waded through a lot of irrelevant information to get the financial data they want or need. Our goal is to provide a fresh perspective on finance-related search.

Google Finance brings a lot to the table. I'll highlight the top three distinguishing features. First, Google Finance offers an easier way to search for financial information. For example, you can search by the name or symbol of worldwide public or private companies or mutual funds. Try searching for "Bloomberg" or "Vodafone" (on the London stock exchange, not the ADR) or "Apple" on Google Finance and then conducting the same search on any other online finance site. You'll instantly see how much easier it is.

A second major difference is our charts. We were the first to launch interactive charts where you can click and drag to view different time periods. Further, the charts are essentially a mashup of stock prices and news stories to help provide additional context as to why a stock may (or may not) have moved. You can also easily compare stocks and indices on one chart, as well as view splits and dividends. Lastly, I'm not aware of any other chart that allows you to see extended hour trades plotted. This is particularly important during earnings seasons or when a major company announcement occurs in extended hours.

A third major difference is our company coverage of news, blogs, and videos. We incorporate news stories from over 4,500 English sources to provide the most relevant, unbiased, and timely news on a company. We also launched Google Finance with blog search results to offer an even wider perspective of views on a company. And more recently, we added financial videos on our front page from dozens of sources to help provide a richer perspective on financial markets.

Munarriz: What are some of the latest features added to Google Finance?

Stanton: First, you can go to our blog to always stay on top of our latest features. Over the summer, we had a number of launches, including several Google Finance gadgets on iGoogle, the personalized page of Google. We also recently launched Google Finance Canada, our first international version of Google Finance. Smaller updates included more historical data for U.K. and Canadian stocks, additional views on charts, and historical price integration with Google Calendar.

Munarriz: The discussion boards on Google Finance are a mixed bag. Some boards are buzzing with activity, while others are surprisingly dormant. Any theories?

Stanton: We have some very strong discussions on companies like Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Google, and NYSE Euronext (NYSE:NYX). These boards are full of high-quality and thoughtful discussions, which was part of our original goal. Also, we offer discussions on [over-the-counter] stocks such as GBRC, which are not available on other popular sites, including the Fool.

That said, it is true that other discussion groups are very light. When we launched discussions, we were very serious to put anti-spam measures in place. There is a lot of noise on other [services'] boards, and we wanted to create an environment where users could connect and have on-topic conversations.

Munarriz: You recently had an interactive Q&A session on the Google Finance blog to solicit user feedback. What did you discover? What do people want most?

Stanton: We had so much fun doing the Q&A session both on SeekingAlpha earlier this year and our own Google Finance blog. Four main themes resulted from the Q&A:

  • Real-time quotes. One of our top requests is access to real-time quotes. We feel strongly about this, too. In January, we announced a deal with the New York Stock Exchange which would allow our dissemination of last-sale quote data to all of our users for free. We reached a similar agreement with Nasdaq shortly thereafter. However, because market data pricing is regulated by the SEC, we have to wait for the SEC to approve these deals.
  • Internationalization. There were a lot of suggestions to add quotes from various international markets, including Australia and India. Currently, Google Finance offers quotes from many international stock exchanges, including Amsterdam, Brussels, Lisbon, London, Paris, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Toronto.
  • Tools. Many asked for more tools like stock screeners and technical charts. Most of the tools out there today haven't been updated in years, so we agree there is a lot of room for innovation.
  • Content. We've had a number of suggestions to add earnings estimates, institutional ownership, and options data. These are all very important pieces of content for investors. Currently, we offer links to other sites that do a good job of providing this type of content. Unlike traditional finance portals, our goal is to quickly connect people directly with the source of information they are looking for, whether it is on Google or a third-party site. 

Munarriz: Traffic has been improving at Google Finance since last year's launch. Any numbers you would like to share? If not, any third-party data?

Stanton: We have seen great growth on Google Finance since we launched, but particularly strong growth over the past six months. Third-party research doesn't always accurately capture traffic. While page views are one way to measure success, there are other ways that users are accessing Google Finance -- for instance, from mobile devices and our portfolio gadget on iGoogle.

Munarriz: Google Finance hasn't even hit the Terrible Twos yet. What can one expect out of Google Finance over the next year?

Stanton: You can count on us to listen carefully to the feedback we have received so far and offer more of the features stemming from our Q&A. We also have a bunch of features planned in Q4 that, to our knowledge, do not exist elsewhere. You'll have to watch our blog, or, since you've been so kind to offer us a rebuttal, perhaps we'll give you a sneak peak so you can help break the story on The Motley Fool.

Thanks again for the opportunity to let us share our view.

Revisit the "Whatever Became of Google Finance?" article that inspired Stanton's rebuttal.

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is a huge fan of Google, and it would be his homepage if not for Fool.com taking up that piece of real estate. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.