The new features being rolled out by several financial management Web sites show that the participants in this evolving market are still testing models and are starting to differentiate themselves by target market.
Intuit Inc., which dropped the monthly fee last week for its Quicken Online service, expects to introduce spending management features this month developed specifically for people with lower income than the users of its other Quicken-branded products.
By contrast, Mint Software Inc. added an investment-analysis feature last week to enhance its appeal among wealthier consumers. And a feature Geezeo Inc. added last month recommends banking products for its target users: young professionals.
Scott Gulbransen, an Intuit spokesman, said it recently shifted its marketing strategy for Quicken Online, after rethinking who it was trying to reach and how to do so.
The Mountain View, Calif., company's mistake was assuming that the target market for Quicken Online was the same as the one for its Quicken desktop software, which is designed to help with complex financial management tasks, Mr. Gulbransen said.
"Frankly, we dropped the ball with Quicken Online," he said, and the monthly fee was "an obstacle for people to enter." By making access to the platform free and adding budgeting features, "what we're focusing on is the folks that are living paycheck to paycheck."
Mint, whose site has been free to users since its inception, now offers an investment-tracking feature that links to about 1,200 brokerages and providers of individual retirement accounts and 401(k) plans.
Aaron Patzer, Mint's chief executive, said the feature is aimed at people with sophisticated banking needs. "No matter how complicated your financial situation is, we can handle it."
In March, Mint introduced a tool that lets users check balances in their brokerage accounts, and the new application lets them get more details on specific investments, including how their portfolios, or specific stocks, have performed over time.
The Mountain View company gets its money by recommending new products to its customers; it receives a referral fee from the financial companies that get new customers from the site.
Geezeo revamped its site last month, adding a feature that can recommend specific types of accounts for users. Like Mint, it receives a referral fee from banks, and it gets money from advertisements on its site.
Katie McCaskey, Geezeo's director of content, said her users are largely middle-class professionals. The Framingham, Mass., company initially focused its marketing on college students, many of whom have stayed with Geezeo after graduating and entering the work force, she said.
Geezeo has allowed users to view investments since last year, and it has been building out its community section to provide users advice about financial habits, Ms. McCaskey said.
"Our niche is somewhat established, and we're working to support our existing audience," she said.
Wesabe Inc., another financial management site operator, is focusing on people who are concerned with their day-to-day spending.
"We get a lot of people who are middle-class who are struggling with money," said Marc Hedlund, the San Francisco company's CEO and co-founder.
The site's tools were designed to help them monitor and change their spending habits, Mr. Hedlund said. For example, users can learn the average transaction size at local merchants.
This month Wesabe introduced tools that allow users to create customized spending charts. "I don't need to know what my cable bill is every month, because it's the same every month," Mr. Hedlund said.
Wesabe has yet to unveil its own revenue plan; it does not run advertisements or charge users a fee.
"It's very, very difficult to compete with free," Mr. Hedlund said. "Web applications, the expectation is that they are free." He likened Intuit's elimination of its monthly fee to bankers' efforts years ago to drop bill payment fees.
George Tubin, a senior research director at TowerGroup Inc., a Needham, Mass., independent research firm owned by MasterCard Inc., said the site operators "are not financial institutions, per se, and they can be very quick and nimble in what they do," in ways that are largely impossible for bankers.
"They're not trying to hit the home run," Mr. Tubin said. "They're not trying to come out with 'The Solution.' They're very wisely thinking about the market segments and how what they offer can become a needed commodity for these segments."
Intuit can use Quicken Online as a testing ground for features that could added to the FinanceWorks online banking software without upsetting its bank clients by using their customers as guinea pigs, he said.
Bankers are watching what these providers do, and over time "you're going to slowly see financial institutions themselves pick up on the success stories," Mr. Tubin said. These site operators "are sort of the test bed of what's possible."