OK, you need to use your imagination here but this will give you an idea of what life could be like.
I am not saying that the comparison of digital cameras has all the desired characteristics of a comparison of financial information. You can look at this as perhaps a benchmark. Think about how you might change the interface to be the "dream financial comparison tool" which an investor might like? Imagine that the initial lookup list is a list of companies. Imagine that the list of camera features is rather a list of financial ratios, financial concepts, and other information. Imagine the "our in-depth review" being the complete rendered financial statement. What stands in the way of having this?
This is somewhat similar to the prototype SEC XBRL viewer worked.
This digital camera side-by-side comparison can be used in many ways to help determine what a comparison of companies financial information might look like. Ask yourself what might be needed to make your "dream comparison" work. We have lots of the pieces, but no one has done all the things necessary to wire things up in a useful way yet. But, as more and more pieces of the puzzle fall into place, I am sure that financial comparisons will be as easy as comparing digital cameras on this Digital Photography Review web site.
Take this one step further. Imagine a business user being able to put together their comparison, any comparison they want, making it available to whomever they want, all without the help of the IT department. That is what XBRL is really about, in my view.
These comparisons really are not that difficult to create. It is more challenging to create the things you need in order to create the comparisons. For example, if the world has 80 different sets of financial reporting standards it would be challenging to have one tool which compares companies which use different reporting standards. No problem, just create IFRS. Now we have the possibility of having global comparisons. So we have IFRS and we need a way to generate the information into a structured format. If every company used a different format, comparisons are harder. Along comes XBRL and we have the possibility of standardizing on one format. XBRL + IFRS expressed using XBRL (the IFRS Taxonomy). Those were the two big challenges. Everything else is details really.