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Is the Proliferation of XBRL Dialects Good for Business Users?

Is the proliferation of XBRL dialects good for Business Users? I don't think that it is. In a white paper which Rene van Egmond and I wrote, we address why this is not a good thing.

An abstract of the article is below. If you want a copy of the white paper, you can get it here. You can get even more information at the following URL: http://xbrl.squarespace.com/xbrls


This document presents a new approach for using XBRL that enables the non-XBRL expert to create both XBRL metadata and XBRL reports in a simple and convenient manner. At the same time, it improves the usability of XBRL, the interoperability between XBRL-based solutions and it reduces software development costs. Today, mostly all approaches to create XBRL report require an in-depth understand­ing of the XBRL specification; something that will ultimately impede the user community from reaping the benefits that the language has to offer. Furthermore, current practices of building XBRL taxonomies increase costs for software developers, forcing them to continually implement new and often obscure features because someone creating a taxonomy figures out a creative or clever way to make XML Schema do something interesting, commonly when other approaches for achieving the same result already exist. Businesses are then forced to incur consulting fees and additional development costs in order to convert information created in XBRL, from one system’s implementation of XBRL (dialect) to another system’s implementation of XBRL (dialect). This is unnecessary because there is a better way.

At risk is the pervasive use of XBRL. If these developments are not carefully managed by XBRL International, the XBRL specification stands a big chance of fragmenting into a multitude of dialects. While the dialects can be interoperable, they can only be made so at the cost of high consulting fees and additional development cost (reminiscent of EDI and SGML). Those who will suffer the most will be business users, particularly smaller business users and software vendors.

The proposed XBRL Dialect for Business Reporting XBRLS, brings to bear a combination and formalized best practices in XBRL metadata modeling, operating procedures and support tools that will greatly simply the use of XBRL for business reporting. It also simplifies the development and lower the hurdle to market entry of XBRL tools and XBRL business applications that will bring performance and cost optimizations to the business processes around internal and external reporting.

Those who stand to benefit most from the adoption of XBRLS will be the business users, business communities, regulators and the ISV community.

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