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XBRL FAQ: What is the difference between XBRL and XBRL GL?

Q What is the difference between XBRL and XBRL Global Ledger?
A “XBRL” is a set of technical specifications that define how to create XBRL taxonomies. XBRL Global Ledger (XBRL GL) is a XBRL taxonomy.Sometimes this question has a different implicit meaning: what is the difference between XBRL GL and other XBRL taxonomies? So let me answer this one as well.From a technical standpoint, there is no difference between XBRL GL and other XBRL taxonomies, such as the IFRS taxonomy, the US-GAAP taxonomy, or the Standard Business Reporting (SBR) taxonomies. Each XBRL taxonomy has a different architecture – basically, a set of rules that defines the way in which the various technical tools and features defined in the XBRL Specifications must be used within the taxonomy itself. The reason why a taxonomy architecture is necessary is that not all the technical features defined in the XBRL Specifications are always all relevant in all situations, and different types of information being represented by a taxonomy require different subsets of features that are more suitable to represent them. The taxonomy architecture identifies the subset of XBRL technical features that must be used to create and maintain a specific taxonomy, and provides guidance on how to use them. XBRL GL, like any other XBRL taxonomy, has its own architecture, consistent with the type of information that it represents and the requirements that it needs to meet in order to support its business purpose.

From a business standpoint, each XBRL taxonomy is designed to achieve a certain purpose. The business purpose of many XBRL taxonomies is to support the creation of specific reports, such as “financial statements according to the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS)” or “financial statements according to the US GAAP.”  Others have a broader business purpose. For example, the purpose of the Standard Business Reporting (SBR) taxonomy is “supporting all the reports that businesses must submit to the participating agencies in the Australian Government.”

The XBRL GL taxonomy is provides a standardized representation of the business information found in any accounting and operational software application, and of the rules used to populate end reports (typically represented by other XBRL taxonomies) with that information. In practice, this means that the business purpose of the XBRL GL taxonomy is to enable the creation of standardized, application-independent and purpose-independent processes to access, monitor, analyze, and report on business data.

If you have a XBRL question that you think is of general interest, just contact me or send me a direct tweet at @iphixbrl. I will answer it as an XBRL FAQ.

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