I am writing at the end of day 1 of the 11th International XBRL conference in Boston. Over the course of the day I have seen a lot and learned a lot–which I will share with you in a moment.

But I wanted to start with this end of the day perspective: this is a really exciting area of activity. If I were starting a small XML company today, this market would be at the top of my list. It is an EARLY market–no question about it. It is the kind of conference where the vendors still feel obliged to show you the actual markup — early, early. But there is energy and opportunity here that is missing in many of the more mature areas that we cover for the Gilbane Report. This is an exciting place with a lot of problems yet to solve.

At the moment, the activity is being driven primarily by regulatory requirements–most importantly, European regulatory requirements. (Think in terms of all the members of the EU now wanting to find ways to transparently share information across what once were many different accounting standards and sets of national regulations.) The good thing about regulatory requirements is that they can open opportunities for small, innovative firms. I am seeing that happening here.

Apart from the regulatory requirements, consider that, as of today, financial analysts begin the job of understanding a company’s financial statements by cutting and pasting data either from an HTML version of the financial statements–or a PDF one–into spreadsheets.  That’s nuts. It can’t last.  There has to be a better way. XBRL is that better way. At the end of the day, there are many users other than regulators who want this stuff.

There are plenty of problems here too. As I dig into my notes from today’s sessions in more detail–in subsequent Blog entries–I will share some of what I see. But I didn’t want to dive into the critical viewpoint stuff without first saying that this is one hot area.  I am looking forward to day 2.

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