XBRL International is seeking input
on the future development of the XBRL (eXtensible Business
Reporting Language) standard.

A discussion paper, XBRL: Towards a Diverse
Ecosystem, is the first step towards developing a formal strategy
to expand on the existing product.Who creates XBRL tags?

The XBRL standard is developed by the XBRL
Standards Board (XSB), part of XBRL International, which is a
non-profit consortium of about 450 major companies, organisations
and government agencies. It is an open
standard, free of licence fees.

XSB chair John Turner likens the XBRL standard
to a language. It includes rules of grammar and rules about how
things can be expressed.

National and international bodies. such as
accounting standard setters, regulators, stock exchanges,
government bodies and companies, can take the standard and apply it
to a particular reporting domain.

“They use the language to construct some words
that they put in a dictionary,” Turner explained. “Those
dictionaries, which are taxonomies and are owned and governed by
whoever created them, allow the reporting of information in
conformance with that dictionary.”

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Turner said comparing different XBRL
taxonomies, such as the US GAAP taxonomy and the IFRS taxonomy, is
like comparing two dictionaries that use the same language.

Widespread use

XBRL is currently used in about 30
countries, and there are more than 100 other projects where
organisations are looking to bring it on board. One example is in
the UK, where XBRL tagging will be required for tax purposes from
2011.

Turner said there are already several million
companies using XBRL to provide information to their regulator or
to markets, and this will increase rapidly as projects such as the
UK one take effect.

With IFRS implementation well under way, the
XSB now plans to develop a road map that will outline technical
goals for the next 5 to 10 years.

“The XBRL language as a whole has succeeded in
an extraordinary way around the world and is being used in all
kinds of places. Now we have to think about what are the next steps
and how can we make this easier to use and more powerful,” Turner
explained.

The XSB has proposed to focus on three
areas:

• Ease of use for developers;

• Enabling information comparability around
the world; and,

• Simplifying the use of XBRL data for
analysis systems.

Turner said developers who work with databases
can find moving to XBRL “a leap”. Therefore, the XSB is proposing
to look for ways to make the standard more accessible for them.

Enabling comparability and simplifying the use
of the data go hand-in-hand.

The XSB considers the information
comparability question to be a problem with financial reports in
general, not XBRL per se, but they still think it should be
addressed.

“XBRL suffers from [the comparability] problem
today just as general paper-based reporting suffers from it,”
Turner said.

“So we are looking at what we can do to bridge
those silos and provide fundamental building blocks that everyone
can use to help with their own comparisons and accelerate that
process.”

The deadline to submit comments is 19
March.