XBRL: an (open) source of enlightenment or disillusion?

Joanne Locke*, Alan D. Lowe

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)585-623
Number of pages39
JournalEuropean Accounting Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2007


  • extensiblebusiness reporting language
  • XBRL
  • exchange of business information


Dive into the research topics of 'XBRL: an (open) source of enlightenment or disillusion?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this