XML has always been perfect for open source development.
As an evolving standard, the tags which can represent anything need cooperation in order to be useful. Early efforts like adXML applied the technology to specific types of business transactions, in the ad space.
But business processes are more complex than any set of pure XML tags can represent. And so we have XBRL, which is an effort to apply the ideas behind XML to the more complex needs of business reporting.
Up in Kirkland, Washington, just north of Redmond, UBMatrix smells a business opportunity here. Director of marketing Darren Peterson explained it.
"XBRL is a modeling language," Peterson said. Regulators see the value of it and the SEC is defining common methods for comunication using it. "They’ve built a framework people can use to analyze financial statements."
UBMatrix, meanwhile, has developers working on a taxonomy with lawyers and accountants. "Our technology does version tracking to manage the code, as well as code for building the taxonomy. These are key to enabling taxonomies to be built. We’re making the development environment and tool available for no charge."
So where does the money come from? "The collaboration environnment is online and free. There’s also a development tool we’ve been selling for $3,000, and we sell consulting services."
If everyone were happy, the UBMatrix effort might not be so exciting. But everyone is not happy.
"Open source is controversial in the financial reporting world. The idea that people other than the standards bodies be able to contribute to a taxonomy is under real debate. Groups like the Finanaicl Accounting Standards Board (FASB) feel they own the standard, and they are threatened by this open source effort."
This is actually good news. It makes UBMatrix a standard-bearer for lowering the cost of doing business, fighting the good fight against the special interests, with the government (in the form of the SEC) at its side. This will mean press coverage, stories that spread the work of the good work Peterson and his cohorts are doing.
Stories like this one.