Get out your red SharpiesTM, Fools, and mark your calendars -- Aug. 11, 2005, was the day the music died.

More precisely, it was a day on which individual investors received yet another lesson in the law of "no free lunches." Whilst researching past financial performance for a column discussing the H1 2005 results for garage operator Standard Parking (NASDAQ:STAN), I turned, as is my wont, to financial data website But instead of finding reams and reams of data on the company's earnings performance over the past six months, the free cash flow it has generated from operations since coming public one year ago, what I saw was this.

In essence, what I found upon pulling up anumati's site was an ad from, offering to sell me the domain name and announcing that: "This domain name expired on 08/01/05 and is pending renewal or deletion." Sigh.

It's just a continuation of the trend of free, easy-to-use financial information websites either going extinct (anumati), reformatting themselves to become less user-friendly and more "quit looking at our free data and buy our premium stuff"-ey (Dun & Bradstreet (NYSE:DNB) subsidiary, or killing off their free sites entirely to force the issue (see Edgar Online (NASDAQ:EDGR); don't see "", because it ain't there no mo'.)

Worst of all are the sites that can certainly afford to provide free financial data and that still do so, but simply put less effort into making sure that that data's accurate because, well, there's no money in it (Yahoo! Finance).

Speaking of which, for years, we at the Fool have pointed Fool community members toward Yahoo!'s (NASDAQ:YHOO) easy-to-use Finance pages -- which are easily the best-designed and most informative collations of company financial data still available free on the Internet. Problem is, they're no longer consistently reliable. Take, for example, two companies I recently researched: Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG) and Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ). In reviewing the companies' respective free cash flows, as reflected on Yahoo!, I was surprised to "learn" that P&G generated more free cash flow than it earned in cash from operations (surprised, because that's not possible.) And that J&J apparently didn't earn any cash from operations at all over the past year (notice the N/A on the Key Statistics page) -- yet somehow still came up with $24 billion in free cash flow.

Of course, it isn't true. But to confirm that for free, you most likely need to visit the SEC's official website and wade through the company's actual filings. The truth is in there, but it may take you some time to find it. Best bring a bagged lunch.

Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of either of the companies mentioned in this article.