Agoracom Blog

What Is XBRL? Description + YouTube Video In Plain English

Posted by AGORACOM at 11:50 AM on Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

OK, so you’ve now seen the SEC is about to change the world of filing and disclosure towards pure web-based systems. On the filings side, IDEA is the system that will be replacing EDGAR. IDEA is an XBRL-based application.

Confused yet?

Don’t worry. The bad news is – unlike your PC and other digital gadgets – you can’t ignore XBRL and still operate as a public company.

The good news – AGORACOM is here to help educate and walk you through the process. To this end, let’s start with a basic description of XBRL, followed by a plain english YouTube video:


The idea behind XBRL, eXtensible Business Reporting Language, is simple. Instead of treating financial information as a block of text – as in a standard internet page or a printed document – it provides an identifying tag for each individual item of data. This is computer readable. For example, company net profit has its own unique tag.

The introduction of XBRL tags enables automated processing of business information by computer software, cutting out laborious and costly processes of manual re-entry and comparison. Computers can treat XBRL data “intelligently”: they can recognise the information in a XBRL document, select it, analyse it, store it, exchange it with other computers and present it automatically in a variety of ways for users. XBRL greatly increases the speed of handling of financial data, reduces the chance of error and permits automatic checking of information.

Companies can use XBRL to save costs and streamline their processes for collecting and reporting financial information. Consumers of financial data, including investors, analysts, financial institutions and regulators, can receive, find, compare and analyse data much more rapidly and efficiently if it is in XBRL format.


Hopefully, you are now on your way to understanding XBRL. There will be a lot more education to come – but this is a great start.

UPDATE:  Michael Brush over at MSN Money thought this post was good enough to help out his audience with explaining XBRL, so we hope it helps you too.


One Response to “What Is XBRL? Description + YouTube Video In Plain English”

  1. […] EDGAR will be replaced by IDEA (Interactive Data Electronic Applications), an XBRL-based platform. […]