PERHAPS I shouldn’t be so flippant about XBRL, a technology that almost everyone seems to think is a big deal, but I’m more turned on by the offbeat side of events around the financial tagging language than the serious stuff.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably know that the XBRL U.S. GAAP taxonomy was released for public testing and input last week (registration required).
Insiders will tell you this is a major milestone on the road to XBRL being made mandatory, possibly beginning with a rule proposal as early as April 2008, and then probably a staggered implementation for big companies, followed by little ones in two to three years.
That’s just my guess, but I don’t think it really matters to investor relations professionals like you, because, well, XBRL is just not your problem. It’s an IT or Finance “problem,” so I suggest you start bugging them to get their acts together. You don’t want to be holding the can for the XBRL bills that start rolling in when Chairman Cox & Co. make this thing compulsory.
Anyway, back to the offbeat. As with any new technology, someone always has to be first to use it and file their financials with the SEC in it. With each new iteration of XBRL, we’ve gotten news releases trumpeting a first. Last month, it was Reuters Group plc crowing about filing XBRL in IFRS to coincide with the SEC’s decision to remove the reconciliation requirement.
So last week when XBRL US released the GAAP taxonomy for testing, I just knew we’d see more “first” news releases. And true to form, in less than 24 hours, there it was.
At 10:00 am EST last Thursday morning, small-cap SEC filings services company EDGAR Online proudly announced that it was the “First Filing Solutions Provider to Successfully Submit to the SEC Using Next Generation Data Tags.”
Here’s the first paragraph from EDGAR Online’s release:
NORWALK, Conn., Dec. 6 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — EDGAR(R) Online, Inc. announced today that they are the first filing solutions provider to successfully submit an XBRL filing to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) using the next generation set of U.S. GAAP XBRL data tags, which were announced earlier this week. The 8-K filing with a XBRL translation of EDGAR Online’s third quarter 2007 financials was submitted and accepted to the SEC EDGAR system on Wednesday, December 5th.
I felt really good for them, being such a small company and all (their market cap is just $80 million). It’s nice when little companies do good.
However, much later in the day at 6:21 pm EST, mighty Microsoft (market cap $325.01 billion)
rained cloud-bursted on little EDGAR Online’s parade by announcing that, no, they were “the first company to provide financial information using newly issued sets of interactive data tags — or taxonomies — that use Extensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) technology.”
Here’s the first paragraph from Microsoft’s release:
Microsoft Corp. yesterday filed a Form 8-K furnishing financial information from its Form 10-Q for the quarter ended Sept. 30, 2007, in interactive data format. With this filing, Microsoft was the first company to provide financial information using newly issued sets of interactive data tags — or taxonomies — that use Extensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) technology. Microsoft furnished a full set of financial information including its financial statements, footnotes, and Management’s Discussion and Analysis using the latest U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles taxonomy released by XBRL US on Dec. 5, 2007.
Now, when Microsoft does something, the media pays attention. So almost immediately the news stories started appearing. There’s this one from IDG News Service and yet another from Read/Write Web. Even blogs that hitherto had never mentioned XBRL jumped in.
Well, to me that’s just not fair. What about little EDGAR Online? Didn’t they deserve a mention, too?
I decided to set the record straight by telling this classic David-vs-Goliath story for all the world (OK, just you, but at least someone would speak up on the small company’s behalf).
I was all fired up about the injustice of it all. Until I actually checked with the SEC’s EDGAR database and saw that Microsoft’s filing had indeed been accepted just over an hour before EDGAR Online’s — at 13:54:33 versus 15:09:16.
Poof! There went my story. But none of this really matters because until there is a way for real people to use these new XBRL filings in a usable format, it’s all just gibberish anyway.