Friday 9 September 2011

Inaccessible XBRL

"An intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction" - Einstein

When I first heard about XBRL and it's amazing capabilities from the commentators at the time, I imagined a world of disclosures in which a single document would deliver the graphic brilliance of a pdf annual report combined with the analytical precision of a spreadsheet. I anticipated that the same document could be opened effortlessly in different applications depending on how you wished to view the data.

Fast forward to today....

XBRL reporting, as implemented by the SEC at the behest of XBRL International, requires you to take delivery of no less than seven separate files.

None of these files can be read by any of the tools you find on an average desktop. Not by Excel, by Word, by Explorer or any other web browser or Abobe Reader. Not by using the latest versions. Not even by jigging them around a bit. This may surprise you, seeing Microsoft were part of the original consortium. I can only assume their involvement was nominal. Perhaps it's never advisable to send a junior to a standards committee meeting, even if they plan to spend the entire afternoon discussing data labels.

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