SEC Financial Explorer Supports XBRL Interactive Data
SEC Makes Analyzing Corporate Performance Easier for Investors
A Whole New Way to Look at Financial Data
Washington, D.C., USA. February 15, 2008.
Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Christopher Cox today announced the launch of the "Financial Explorer" on the SEC Web site to help investors quickly and easily analyze the financial results of public companies. Financial Explorer paints the picture of corporate financial performance with diagrams and charts, using financial information provided to the SEC as "interactive data" in Extensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL).
At the click of a mouse, Financial Explorer lets investors automatically generate financial ratios, graphs, and charts depicting important information from financial statements. Information including earnings, expenses, cash flows, assets, and liabilities can be analyzed and compared across competing public companies.
The software takes the work out of manipulating the data by entirely eliminating tasks such as copying and pasting rows of revenues and expenses into a spreadsheet. That frees investors to focus on their investments' financial results through visual representations that make the numbers easier to understand. Investors can use Financial Explorer by visiting www.sec.gov/xbrl.
"XBRL is fast becoming the universal language for the exchange of business information and it is the future of financial reporting," said Chairman Cox. "With Financial Explorer or another XBRL viewer, investors will be able to quickly make sense of financial statements. In the near future, potentially millions of people will be able to analyze and compare financial statements and make better-informed investment decisions. That's a big benefit to ordinary investors."
David Blaszkowsky, Director of the SEC's Office of Interactive Disclosure, encouraged investors to try out the new software. "Financial Explorer will help investors analyze investment choices much quicker. I encourage both companies and investors to visit the SEC Web site, try the software, and get a first-hand glimpse of the future of financial analysis, especially for the retail investor."
Financial Explorer is open source, meaning that its source code is free to the public, and technology and financial experts can update and enhance the software. As interactive data becomes more commonplace, investors, analysts, and others working in the financial industry may develop hundreds of Web-based applications that help investors garner insights about financial results through creative ways of analyzing and presenting the information.
In addition to Financial Explorer, the SEC currently offers investors two other online viewers — the Executive Compensation viewer and the Interactive Financial Report viewer, also available at www.sec.gov/xbrl. The Executive Compensation viewer enables investors to instantly compare what 500 of the largest U.S. companies are paying their top executives. The Interactive Financial Report viewer also helps investors gather, analyze, and compare key financial disclosures filed voluntarily by public companies using XBRL. To date, there have been 307 such filings from 74 companies. Under the SEC's interactive data filing program, companies may continue to file XBRL data voluntarily, pending anticipated Commission rulemaking.
Unlike most free Internet tools that use adjusted or aggregated data and include disclaimers warning investors not to rely on the information for investment decisions, XBRL data can give investors nearly real-time access to the complete and actual data companies report under U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. The SEC's interactive data initiative is designed to make financial information more accessible, more understandable, and more useful to investors. It enables public companies and mutual funds to submit information in a standardized, tagged format to facilitate analysis and comparisons. For more information, contact XBRLprogram@sec.gov.
XBRL is a member of the family of languages based on XML, or Extensible Markup Language, which is a standard for the electronic exchange of data between businesses and on the internet. Under XML, identifying tags are applied to items of data so that they can be processed efficiently by computer software.
XBRL is a powerful and flexible version of XML which has been defined specifically to meet the requirements of business and financial information. It enables unique identifying tags to be applied to items of financial data, such as 'net profit'. However, these are more than simple identifiers. They provide a range of information about the item, such as whether it is a monetary item, percentage or fraction. XBRL allows labels in any language to be applied to items, as well as accounting references or other subsidiary information.
XBRL can show how items are related to one another. It can thus represent how they are calculated. It can also identify whether they fall into particular groupings for organisational or presentational purposes. Most importantly, XBRL is easily extensible, so companies and other organisations can adapt it to meet a variety of special requirements.
The rich and powerful structure of XBRL allows very efficient handling of business data by computer software. It supports all the standard tasks involved in compiling, storing and using business data. Such information can be converted into XBRL by suitable mapping processes or generated in XBRL by software. It can then be searched, selected, exchanged or analysed by computer, or published for ordinary viewing.
The XBRL Specification [available online at XBRL Specifications: Recommendations] provides the technical definition of how XBRL works.
XBRL Taxonomies, also published via this site, are the dictionaries which the language uses. These are the categorisation schemes which define the specific tags for individual items of data (such as "net profit"). National jurisdictions have different accounting regulations, so each may have its own taxonomy for financial reporting. Many different organisations, including regulators, specific industries or even companies, may also require taxonomies to cover their own business reporting needs. A special taxonomy has also been designed to support collation of data and internal reporting within organisations. This is the GL taxonomy.
Ordinary users of XBRL may be largely or totally unaware of the technical infrastructure which underpins the language. However, software companies, such as accountancy software providers, need to take account of XBRL and its features when producing their products.
[Press release source]
Prepared by Robin Cover for The XML Cover Pages archive.