In finance, futures trading is a standardized contract, traded on a futures exchange, to buy or sell a certain underlying instrument at a certain date in the future, at a set price specified on the last trading date. The futures trading date is called the delivery date or final settlement date. The set price is called the delivery price or settlement price.
A futures trading contract gives the holder the right and the obligation to buy or sell. Contrast this with an options contract, which gives the buyer the right, but not the obligation, and the writer (seller) the obligation, but not the right. In other words, an option buyer can choose not to exercise when it would be uneconomical for him. The holder of a futures trading contract and the writer of an option, do not have a choice. To exit the commitment, the holder of a futures trading position has to sell his long position or buy back his short position, effectively closing the position.
Futures trading contracts, or simply futures trading, are exchange traded derivatives. The exchange acts as counterparty on all contracts, sets margin requirements, etc.