Computers can use XBRL to identify data, and even the context within which that information resides, that are common to every financial disclosure. Adding XBRL tags to financial disclosures makes them searchable and much easier to compare.
In a statement on the SEC Web site, Chairman Christopher Cox said, "Interactive data will enable new analysis tools to put key information at every investor's fingertips within seconds, exactly as the investor wishes to see it."
Interactive data filing will be "phased in," according to the SEC. The country's largest companies that file using U.S. Generally Acceptable Accounting Principles (GAAP) will begin using XBRL with filings for fiscal years ending on or after June 15 of next year. Other public companies that use GAAP will be phased in over the next two years, and companies that file using International Financial Reporting Standards will follow shortly thereafter -- with fiscal years ending on or after June 15, 2011.
NextGov quotes XBRL international steering committee member Diane Mueller, who says the new rule "will bring the United States into alignment with worldwide practices" and calls the move a "brilliant" one for Cox.