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XBRL 2.1 Working Draft

XBRL 2.1 Working Draft Released for Public Comment

Date:      Sat, 26 Apr 2003 10:41:50 -0500
From:      Walter Hamscher <>
Subject:   XBRL 2.1 Working Draft Released for Public comment

XBRL International has announced the availability of its XBRL 2.1 Specification Working Draft for public comment at its website. XBRL 2.1 will enhance the ability for business reporting applications to create XBRL data that will be usable by many other systems. The XBRL 2.1 Specification Public Working Draft comment period will remain open for a minimum of 60 days, at which time comments will be reviewed for consideration as part of the final XBRL 2.1 Recommendation. The XBRL International Steering Committee has declared a key condition of finalisation to be the existence of two implementations with known licensing terms, interoperable with an XBRL 2.1 conformance suite to be finalised along with the Specification.

The eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) allows the platform independent definition, exchange and dissemination of corporate reporting concepts and documents. It can be used to express a wide range of reports and disclosures including financial statements, internal management information, regulatory returns, statistical reports and credit filings. XBRL International is a non-profit consortium whose members include over 220 leading organisations concerned with the business information supply chain. XBRL has been widely recognised as an important component in the improvement of corporate transparency. The XBRL 2.1 Working Draft Specification was been developed in response to calls from software vendors for greater clarity in order to ease implementation and ensure interoperability as the push for reform in corporate reporting accelerates.

The XBRL 2.0 Specification, available to the market since December 2001, and all XBRL taxonomies developed in conformance with the XBRL 2.0 Specification, remain valid and continue to be supported by many software vendors. XBRL applications use XBRL taxonomies that consist of definitions of financial and business reporting terms expressed in XML Schema, along with rich networks of relationships among those terms, expressed using XML Linking Language. Those already developing taxonomies and applications that are fully XBRL 2.0 compliant may, but need not, consider only the following change in order to be XBRL 2.1 compliant: an indication on each taxonomy definition to indicate whether it is meant to denote a fact reported as of a point in time, or over a period of time. All other aspects of XBRL taxonomies and instance documents can be converted to XBRL 2.1 through automated means.

All technical commentary should be directed to the editors of the document which can be downloaded from the website.

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

Q. XBRL 2.0 published in December 2001 had a 41 page specification and 2.1 has 95 pages. What accounts for this?

A. There are many more usage examples, fragments included from the defining schemas, greater detail about pre-existing XBRL 2.0 features, and detailed explanations of the new features.

Q. How will users benefit from more detailed technical exposition of existing features?

A. There have always been restrictions on what is a meaningful taxonomy schema, meaningful linkbase, and meaningful instances. In the past many of these criteria were implicit; these criteria are now part of the specification and either enforced using XML Schema requiring no new code to be written, and in other cases will allow vendors to more easily write consistent validation code. Examples of these technical enhancements include a detailed exposition of handling variable precision numbers, prohibitions on certain kinds of loops in relationships, and prohibition of duplicated data in instances. The meaning of calculation links and their ability to express relationships between items in different tuples has been specified precisely.

Q. What are the new features that developers and users can choose to benefit from?

A. Domain experts and application developers can now define the handling of new relationships not defined by XBRL itself; new relationships allow taxonomy authors to precisely connect taxonomy definitions to authoritative definitions and other supporting documentation. Calculation links have been made more powerful through a mechanism for expressing relationships between items in different contexts, meeting a key request from builders of complex financial reports. To help facilitate rapid adoption, XBRL documents can now indicate whether they conform to certain limited application profiles which use only a subset of XBRL 2.1 features. This helps developers whose applications might not yet support every aspect of XML Schema processing.

Q. XBRL International publishes taxonomies on its web site such as XBRL GL, a US-GAAP draft taxonomy framework, and the IAS financial reporting taxonomy. Will these taxonomies be published in XBRL 2.1 from now on?

A. Not yet. New public Working Drafts of these taxonomies will continue to be published using XBRL 2.0 until such time as XBRL 2.1 is issued as a Recommendation. At that time, the XBRL 2.1 Recommendation will be accompanied or followed shortly by updated XBRL 2.1 compliant taxonomies at whatever stage they had previously reached (Working Draft or Recommendation).

Q. What does the XBRL 2.1 conformance suite consist of and when will it appear?

A. The conformance suite will consist mainly of a set of taxonomies (XML Schema and XLink files), instance documents, containing both valid and invalid usage. Development is currently in progress; check for updates.

Walter Hamscher
Chair, XBRL International Steering Committee
Consultant to PricewaterhouseCoopers

Prepared by Robin Cover for The XML Cover Pages archive. See other details in the 2003-04-28 news story "Working Draft for Extensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) Version 2.1" General references in "Extensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL)"

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