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Discussion about XBRL - eXtensible Business Reporting Language - with a high-level overview.

XBRL Can Lead to Better Financial Research Insights - Canada


July 3, 2004
Updated on August 9, 2004
Updated on May 29, 2006
News- January 19, 2007 Canada's securities regulators launch eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) voluntary filing program

A standard documented by the Oasis Consortium may bring fresh ways to compare the fiscal health of public companies. XBRL - or eXtensible Business Reporting Language - promises to help organizations integrate financial information, enabling executives and investors to more effectively measure company performance and value.

At a high level, you can understand XBRL as a standard file format for financial information, similar to how PDF is a standard file format for documents. Thus, just as companies release their fiscal reports in PDF files, which anyone can print or read, they might also release files in XBRL format, which sophisticated analysts can "slice and dice ... in sundry clever ways." (quoted from Liv Watson, Vice President of Edgar Online).

As Mike Willis, "deputy chief knowledge officer of PricewaterhouseCoopers Global Assurance and Business Advisory Services (ABAS) practice," explained in a recent report for PriceWaterHouseCoopers, XBRL is the most widely accepted solution currently available to fill "a need for the corporate reporting supply chain to eliminate the hand-tinkered, labor-intensive processes currently used to produce reports and consume their contents." In other words XBRL provides tools and a standard data structure that enables analysts and investors to really understand the financial information that they have been given, to verify that it is accurate, and to obtain high-level insights into the operational structure of companies.

It is interesting to view what is available already using XBRL. UBmatrix, a company in Kirkland, Washington, provides an entire product family of XBRL tools. It is already possible to view XBRL format files using PriceWaterHouseCooper's Interface to the SEC database.

XBRL is already useful for financial researchers and investors as it provides an electronically pre-sorted version of financial reports. This form of information is more readily compared and analysed. For more information, please contact us.

Update May 29, 2006 - take a look at this sourceforge site where it looks like they're building a functional reference implementation of ebxml.

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