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Friday, September 30, 2011

Explaining XBRL in the Elevator, at the Water Cooler, or to Your Boss

Say that you were riding on an elevator, and someone said, “Hey, I just found out I have to do my reporting in some funny-named format called XBRL to such-and-such regulatory agency. But I don’t even know what the heck it is. Do you know anything about XBRL?” You have about two minutes to answer before the doors ding, and you have to exit the elevator. Here’s about as simple an explanation of XBRL that you can give:

“XBRL is an acronym for the Extensible Business Reporting Language. XBRL is a freely available, market-driven, open, global standard markup language, backed by a formal technical specification. You can use XBRL to define and model the meaning of business information so that computer applications can effectively exchange that information without any human intervention. Humans can still get everything they have today, and they still maintain control of these exchange processes. One of the primary benefits XBRL gives business users is the ability to cheaply and efficiently automate all sorts of business-information-exchange processes. Another is more flexibility for consumers of business information. Think of XBRL as enabling the creation of a pipeline to distribute oil or gasoline, rather than using individual tanker trucks.”

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