Nasdaq Invites You to Take XBRL For a Test Drive

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The Nasdaq Stock Market has made available a pilot test of how Web services and the Extensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) will transform corporate communications. You are invited to take it for a test drive and see for yourself how real-time reporting will look and feel in the future.

Here's how:

  • Go to Nasdaq's XBRL Web site and download the Excel Investor's Assistant.
  • Under the home page, pick one or more of the companies that volunteered for the pilot program. There are 23 technology companies in the pilot, including Microsoft and Intel.
  • Click on "build analysis," then check out the pages for financial measures, ratio analysis, financial statements, notes, and XBRL instance documents.

Not only does this spreadsheet rack and stack traditional financial measures and ratios based on historical accounting data, but it also integrates and graphs up-to-the-minute market data. About the only things missing are a stamp of approval from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and maybe some explanations of the definitions that underlie the metrics shown on the charts. For example, some users may not know what a SOXX index is or how to interpret it.

The pilot was a joint effort of Nasdaq, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and Microsoft. Microsoft built the Web service and spreadsheet template, Nasdaq hosts the Web service and pilot content, and PwC tagged exemplary data in XBRL from 23 companies over a five year period of financial statements and selective notes.

Mike Willis, founding chairman of XBRL International, a non-profit industry consortium, and a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, explains the new system will benefit companies, as well as individual investors and professional securities analysts. He points out, "This pilot demonstrates the advantages of using technology to transform the corporate reporting supply chain for the benefit of all participants."

It may sound complicated, but the concept is really simple. Mr. Willis thinks of it as transforming the corporate communication process from a 'publishing model' to a 'broadcasting model.' The site demonstrates the advantages of the new model. It uses Web services as a broadcasting channel, pushing company information to investors in XBRL format so it will work efficiently and immediately in their analytical applications and software tools (e.g., browser, worksheet software, and data warehouse). Investors get faster access to accurate, complete information that is easily reusable, and this in turn improves the transparency of the information reported by companies.

Learn more about the pilot program and how it will benefit you.

-Rosemary Schlank

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