NASDAQ is an acronym for the National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations. It was founded in 1971 by the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD), which divested itself of Nasdaq in a series of sales in 2000 and 2001. The Nasdaq Stock Market is owned and operated by Nasdaq, Inc., the stock of which was listed on its own securities exchange on July 2, 2002, under the ticker symbol NDAQ.
The Nasdaq Stock Market began trading on February 8, 1971. It was the world's first electronic stock market. At first, it was merely a “quotation system” and did not provide a way to perform electronic trades. The Nasdaq Stock Market helped lower the spread (the difference between the bid price and the ask price of the stock) but was unpopular among brokerages which made much of their money on the spread.
The Nasdaq Stock Market eventually assumed the majority of major trades that had been executed by the over-the-counter (OTC) system of trading, but there are still many securities traded in this fashion. As late as 1987, the Nasdaq exchange was still commonly referred to as "OTC" in media reports and also in the monthly Stock Guides (stock guides and procedures) issued by Standard & Poor's Corporation.
Over the years, the Nasdaq Stock Market became more of a stock market by adding trade and volume reporting and automated trading systems. It was also the first stock market in the United States to trade online, highlighting Nasdaq-traded companies and closing with the declaration that the Nasdaq Stock Market is "the stock market for the next hundred years". The Nasdaq Stock Market attracted new growth companies, including Microsoft, Apple, Cisco, Oracle and Dell, and it helped modernize the IPO.
Its main index is the NASDAQ Composite, which has been published since its inception. However, its exchange-traded fund tracks the large-cap NASDAQ-100 index, which was introduced in 1985 alongside the NASDAQ 100 Financial Index, which tracks the largest 100 companies in terms of market capitalization.