Although some might be unwilling to admit it, when Microsoft Corp. talks, people often listen. And right now the three letters on the tongues of many at Microsoft appear to be XML, as its venture with the consortium of companies involved in XBRL.org indicates.

David Turner, product director of XML, or "extensible markup language," at Microsoft, says the software behemoth's decision to spearhead efforts to expand XML "was not mandated" from the top. "It was more of a grassroots effort, where people inside and outside Microsoft evangelized about XML. It offers a compelling way to solve a communication problem on the Web."

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