XBRL, eXtensible Business Reporting Language, is a royalty-free, international information format designed specifically for business information, also referred to as ‘interactive data’ by the SEC. The idea behind XBRL is simple: instead of treating business information as a block of text – as in a printed paper document or a standard Internet page – it provides a unique, electronically readable tag for each individual disclosure item within business reports.

Background of XBRL

In 1998, Charlie Hoffman, a single CPA who worked for a small CPA firm in Washington state, had the idea of XBRL as a way of totally transforming business reporting. (Read XBRL: It’s Unstoppable – A Conversation with the Father of the Digital Language of Business.) Charlie enlisted the support of the AICPA to spearhead the development of XBRL with the goal of providing a standard, XML-based language for digitizing business reports in accordance with the rules of accounting in every country around the world. XBRL International is a global consortium with over 250 leading organizations concerned with the exchange and timeliness of financial and business reporting data. Through the efforts of the AICPA and its members, a framework of specifications and taxonomies was produced to support providing a standard, XML-based language for digitizing business reports. XBRL US (the US jurisdiction of XBRL International) operated under the AICPA volunteer committee structure from 1999-2006 until it became a separate, not-for-profit organization in September 2006. As a founder and an active member of XBRL US, the AICPA supports adoption through the development of education and tools to help our members implement and adopt XBRL. AICPA staff and its members are represented on many committees and task forces of XBRL US and XBRL International, including a seat on the XBRL International Steering Committee.

New The Story of our New Language 
This paper, based on a chronicle of Charles Hoffman and Louis Matherne, documents the story of XBRL told from the perspectives of many key influencers of XBRL throughout its history.   The AICPA interviewed many of the XBRL contributors in order to encapsulate the journey from its original development to the creation of a consortium of over 550 organizations who work together to continue to build a common language for business reporting and support its adoption.

Download the full document: The Story of Our New Language