In the early days of trading, buying and selling on the stock exchange was a game for the rich and powerful. Your average blue-collar worker didn't know anything about the stock market and often didn't even know how to go about entering the market. Thanks to the internet, anybody with enough money to open an account can participate in the stock market. With online trading, your average person, who would never have used a stock broker in the past, can log on and trade stocks with a few clicks of a mouse.
Stocks are traded at a stock exchange, such as the traditional New York Stock Exchange, where trades are conducted on the trading floor in the style of an auction. Online stock trading is similar. In both cases, it is simply a market to connect people who want to buy stock with people who want to sell stock. It involves two people, a buyer and a seller, agreeing on a price in an online stock exchange.
When doing online stock trading, some websites offer stock brokers who can assist you, whether by email, real-time chat or phone, but for the most part, the buyer and seller make their own decisions, do their own research and conduct the transactions on their own.
In buying a share, people are investing in the company for the future in the hopes that the company will be worth more then than now. The price of a share is dependent upon the state of the economy, the particular company's performance, and the attitudes of investors. When the company makes a profit, the stockholders can receive a dividend, usually paid out annually. In addition, if the company increases in value, so does the share held by the stockholders, meaning they would make a profit if they sold it.