Open standard gains new ground in financial reporting

May 14, 2008, By Grant Gross, IDG News Service\Washington Bureau, IDG,

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has taken a major step toward requiring publicly traded companies to submit their reports to the agency in an interactive data format, with backers saying the change will make financial reports easier to analyze.

All three SEC members voted to publish a proposal that would require public companies to file reports in eXtensible Business Reporting Language, or XBRL, a programming language related to XML that’s being developed by a nonprofit consortium of about 450 companies. Under the proposal, which still needs final approval from the SEC after a public comment period, the transition from text and HTML reports to XBRL would take three years, with about 500 of the largest U.S. and foreign companies required to start filing XBRL reports after Dec. 15.