What is XBRL?

XBRL stands for Extensible Business Reporting Language.

How Does XBRL Work?

XBRL is a code through which companies and other entities can communicate business information. It is part of the XML (Extensible Markup Language) group of languages for preparing information for transmission or distribution via the internet. XML is open standard software, meaning that it is free of license fees.

XBRL puts a set of tags on data so that the computer can process the data. The coding also denotes whether a piece of data is a percentage, fraction or amount of currency. Because it is 'extensible,' companies and entities can customize it to meet their individual needs.

The Securities and Exchange Commission began requiring registered companies to use XBRL to submit their reports in 2003. In 2009, the SEC began requiring operating companies, mutual funds and credit rating agencies to do the same.

The language looks something like this:


For something like this:


Why Does XBRL Matter?

XBRL doesn't just help entities put financial documents online; it helps investors and analysts search those documents. Today's disclosure documents (such as 10Ks and 10Qs) can be hundreds of pages long, and without the ability to search those documents, rifling through them for information can take quite a long time. The interactive data that XBRL provides makes it easier for investors and analysts to find information, make calculations and arrive at conclusions.