Draft XBRL and the Semantic Web Interest Group - Charter

The mission of the XBRL and the Semantic Web Interest Group (XBRL IG), part of the Semantic Web Activity, is to explore the potential for interactive access to semantically rich business and financial data, starting with a study of the relationship between XBRL and the Semantic Web.

Information about joining the Interest Group is available on the group's participation page and more information on the group's home page.

End date 30 June 2011
Confidentiality Proceedings are public
Initial Chairs to be determined
Initial Team Contacts
(FTE %: 40)
Dave Raggett (W3C/JustSystems)
Usual Meeting Schedule Teleconferences: Every two weeks
Face-to-face: up to 2 per year



Today's global economy depends on an efficient flow of capital, and this in turn demands transparency in corporate reporting along with accurate and timely data. Paper-based reports are being replaced by electronic filing. HTML and PDF have paved the way as document formats, and we are now seeing the transition to a more rigorous approach to the semantics of business and financial data, where each reported fact has to be labeled with the financial (or other compliance requirement, such as tax, statutory, or statistical) reporting concept that applies to it. Taxonomies for generally accepted accounting principles such as US GAAP and IFRS are very detailed, with many thousands of concepts and relationships. XBRL (the extensible business reporting language) is an XML format for such taxonomies and has gained the support of governments world wide. The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has mandated that US public companies file reports in XBRL, starting with the largest companies in mid-2009. Other countries have similar plans, e.g. in the UK, thousands of companies already report in XBRL, which will be mandatory in 2011. In Asia, XBRL has gained early adoption in capital markets with Stock Exchanges in China, Japan, Singapore and South Korea all mandating the use of XBRL. Governments in Australia, the Netherlands and New Zealand, have made commitments to reduce corporate compliance burden using XBRL as part of Standard Business Reporting efforts. This makes it timely for W3C to take a close look at the potential relationship between XBRL and other Web technologies.

What is XBRL?

XBRL is an open standard for reporting business and financial data, together with the associated taxonomies of business and financial reporting principles. It has been developed by XBRL International, while the taxonomies have been developed by XBRL jurisdictions, governments and other efforts. XBRL offers major benefits at all stages of business reporting and analysis, for instance, eliminating the need for analysts to use error prone re-keying of financial data from company reports. XBRL makes use of several W3C technologies: XML, XML Namespaces, XML Schema, XPointer and XLink. Reports filed in XBRL consist of a number of components:

XBRL linkbases cover a range of different kinds of relationships, e.g. defining concepts by reference to the financial reporting literature, human readable labels for concepts, calculations and formulae expressing constraints on facts, and the ordering and nesting of concepts for presentational purposes.

Much of the efforts on XBRL have gone into developing the core specifications and helping companies to prepare reports in XBRL. With growing interest in XBRL from governments world wide, the time has now come to focus on how to exploit the flood of semantically rich business and financial data that XBRL will make available.

What is the connection between XBRL and the Semantic Web?

Applying Semantic Web technologies to business and financial data has huge potential for searching, combining and analysing data at all stages of the reporting pipeline, including the potential for combining XBRL related data with other kinds of data already present on the Web, for example, the CIA World Factbook, DBpedia, geodata, current share prices, exchanges rates and much more. This in turn will unlock the creative potential for web-based services and make it easier for private and institutional investors to track all sizes of companies, and not just the largest, as now. Imagine being able to search for investment opportunities matching your custom risk profile, and to apply a variety of analytics, and to follow this up by locating and browsing through in-depth background information on markets and individual companies.

Facts, concepts and links in XBRL documents can be readily mapped into the Semantic Web. XBRL concepts can be identified via the XML namespace for the schema document defining them as elements together with the element name for each concept. A similar approach can be taken for XBRL instance documents and linkbases. XBRL Import is an open source solution for translating XBRL to RDF's Turtle syntax. Further study is needed for topics such as XBRL versioning, XBRL formulae, and the relationship between XBRL taxonomies and OWL.

Aims of the XBRL and the Semantic Web Interest Group

The XBRL and the Semantic Web Interest Group (XBRL IG) is designed as a forum to support researchers, developers, solution providers, and users of information services that use the Web as the delivery channel. The Interest Group will use email discussion, scheduled IRC topic chats and other tools as a forum to enable broader collaboration.

The following activities are within the scope of the XBRL and the Semantic Web Interest Group and two tasks forces will be formed to achieve the Group's mission:

Use cases and requirements for interactive access to semantically rich business and financial data
  • Identify use cases, stakeholders and their requirements for interactive access to semantically rich business and financial data, e.g. within enterprises for more effective management as a result of improved transparency of business operations. Application to continuous auditing and real-time reporting. Support for private and institutional investors, and national reporting and tax authorities. The role of mashups of financial and other existing sources of data on the Web. The role of trust, security and authenticity in the publication and exchange of this information. Longer term possibilities for greater transparency of risk in financial markets.
XBRL and Semantic Web technologies
  • Study of topics such as XBRL versioning, XBRL formulae, and the relationship between XBRL taxonomies and SKOS/OWL. The role of the closed world assumption for reasoning over financial data. The role of RIF and other rule languages, together with statistical techniques, e.g. for investment analytics. The means to support queries across disclosures made with different versions of taxonomies, or with taxonomies from different jurisdictions. What implications are there for XBRL and the Semantic Web? Is there a need for further standards work on existing or new specifications?

The XBRL IG may choose to broaden its study to include additional markup languages in closely related areas. Two such candidates include:

Success Criteria

The XBRL and the Semantic Web Interest Group should be considered successful if the following conditions are fulfilled:


The major goal of the Interest Group will be the development of Interest Group Notes. Each task force will produce one or more Notes, according to the scope, describing at an appropriate level of generality the challenges that were identified, what conclusions were reached, and recommendations for follow on work.


The Interest Group may also propose holding additional public workshops to explore new and emerging approaches, and to draw attention to its findings.


W3C Groups

Semantic Web Interest Group
SWIG will provide a forum for discussion with other communities involved in the Semantic Web.
Semantic Web Coordination Group (W3C member only)
SWCG provides a basis for formal coordination with W3C Working Groups involved in the Semantic Web. Relevant specifications include OWL and RIF where the XBRL IG may need some help, and should be able to provide feedback.
eGovernment Interest Group (eGov IG)
The eGov IG has a mission to explore how to improve access to government through better use of the Web and achieve better government transparency using open Web standards at any government level (local, state, national and multi-national). There are aspects in common with the XBRL IG, e.g the interest in enabling transparency, and the two groups may be able to benefit from an exchange of ideas.

The XBRL IG may find a need to coordinate with additional W3C Groups as appropriate, e.g. the XForms WG for joint discussions on the relationship between XForms and XBRL Formulae.

External Groups

To achieve its goals, the Interest Group should establish liaisons with others standards development and international bodies, including but not limited to:

XBRL International

XBRL International is the standards development organization for XBRL, and coordinates with local organizations for particular jurisdictions, e.g. XBRL US and XBRL EU. The XBRL and the Semantic Web IG will coordinate with XBRL International and other stakeholders on a roadmap for fulfiling the potential of a flood of semantically rich business and financial data. It is expected that this will in turn lead to standards work at W3C complementing the role of XBRL International.

MUSING Project

MUSING is an EU project working on next-generation knowledge management solutions and services for business intelligence. This includes work on extracting XBRL from PDF, relating XBRL taxonomies to Ontologies, and the role of ontologies for extracting information from natural language sources.


RIXML.org is a consortium of buy-side firms, sell-side firms and vendors that have joined together to define an open standard for categorizing, tagging and distributing global investment research.

International Swaps and Derivatives Association, Inc.

The International Swaps and Derivatives Association, Inc. is a global financial trade association that hosts work on FPML, a markup language for swaps, derivatives and structured financial products.

others, e.g. accounting, investing and governmental bodies?

to be determined.

The group will actively seek contacts with similar organizations worldwide and decide on a case by case basis future liaisons as identified and needed to conduct its work.


Participation in the XBRL and the Semantic Web Interest Group is open to the public. Anyone interested in this topic is welcome to participate in this Interest Group. Individuals who wish to participate as Invited Experts (i.e., they do not represent a W3C Member) should refer to the policy for approval of Invited Experts. Invited Experts in this group are not granted access to Member-only information.

There are no minimum requirements for participation in this group. Participants are strongly encouraged to attend the bi-weekly teleconferences and take advantage of frequent opportunities to review and comment on deliverables from other groups.


This group primarily conducts its work on the public mailing list public-xbrl-ig@w3.org [archives].

Information about the group (deliverables, participants, face-to-face meetings, teleconferences, etc.) is available from the XBRL Interest Group home page.

Decision Policy

As explained in the Process Document (section 3.3), this group will seek to make decisions when there is consensus. When the Chair puts a question and observes dissent, after due consideration of different opinions, the Chair should record a decision (possibly after a formal vote) and any objections, and move on.

Patent Disclosures

The XBRL and the Semantic Web Interest Group provides an opportunity to share perspectives on the topic addressed by this charter. W3C reminds Interest Group participants of their obligation to comply with patent disclosure obligations as set out in Section 6 of the W3C Patent Policy. While the Interest Group does not produce Recommendation-track documents, when Interest Group participants review Recommendation-track specifications from Working Groups, the patent disclosure obligations do apply.

For more information about disclosure obligations for this group, please see the W3C Patent Policy Implementation.

About this Charter

This charter for the XBRL and the Semantic Web Interest Group has been created according to section 6.2 of the Process Document. In the event of a conflict between this document or the provisions of any charter and the W3C Process, the W3C Process shall take precedence.

Dave Raggett

$Date: 2009/02/23 12:17:10 $