After the end of World War II all major currencies were pegged against the value of gold under an international pact adopted at a conference held at Bretton Woods, which became the informal name of the system. This stabilized exchange rates initially, but became untenable as economies developed in the post-war era and gold prices became increasingly expensive. In 1971, the system was effectively eliminated, enabling exchange rates to float freely.
With the widespread adoption of the Internet in the 1990s, banks and small companies created online networks to produce automated quotes and allowed for instantaneous trading. Advancing technology and regulation created a new category of brokers that enabled individuals to trade foreign exchange for the first time. Today, retail brokers, who can be found in virtually every corner of the world, account for a meaningful fraction of global spot foreign exchange volumes.