XBRL: An (Open) Source of Enlightenment or Disillusion?

Posted: 28 Jun 2007 Last revised: 11 Nov 2007

Joanne Locke

University of Waikato

Alan D. Lowe

University of Waikato

Abstract

Extensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) is being adopted by European regulators as a data standard for the exchange of business information. This paper examines the approach of XBRL International (XII) to the meta-data standard's development and diffusion. We theorise the development of XBRL using concepts drawn from a model of successful open source projects. Comparison of the open source model to XBRL enables us to identify a number of interesting similarities and differences. In common with open source projects, the benefits and progress of XBRL have been overstated and 'hyped' by enthusiastic participants. While XBRL is an open data standard in terms of access to the equivalent of its 'source code' we find that the governance structure of the XBRL consortium is significantly different to a model open source approach. The barrier to participation that is created by requiring paid membership and a focus on transacting business at physical conferences and meetings is identified as particularly critical. Decisions about the technical structure of XBRL, the regulator-led pattern of adoption and the organisation of XII are discussed. Finally areas for future research are identified.

Keywords: XBRL, open source, diffusion, reporting

JEL Classification: L31, M41, O31

Suggested Citation

Locke, Joanne and Lowe, Alan D., XBRL: An (Open) Source of Enlightenment or Disillusion?. European Accounting Review, Vol. 16, No. 3, pp. 585-623, 2007. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=996950

Joanne Locke (Contact Author)

University of Waikato ( email )

Waikato Management School
Private Bag 3105
Hamilton
New Zealand

Alan D. Lowe

University of Waikato ( email )

Te Raupapa
Private Bag 3105 Department of Accounting
Hamilton
New Zealand
+64 7 856-2889 (Phone)
+64 7 838-4332 (Fax)

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