Here comes big open corporate data: 28 million filings & counting

There’s a lot more to a company than just the name and company number, although I think OpenCorporates has shown just how powerful those simple facts are (allowing you to match all sorts of public data to the companies – trademarks, payments from government, charities, official suppliers, health & safety notices, etc, etc).

But there’s a reason we time and again go back to the the concept of the company number, and company register, and that’s because it’s the thing that gives a corporate entity a legal identity (that’s the thing you sue, to cut to the chase). And associated with each legal entity are a bunch of filings, from annual accounts to changes in directors.

Now, shamefully, most registers restrict access to these filings, even though these filings are made for statutory purposes (this is even true of the UK, which is enshrining the ‘right to data’ in law), meaning you need to be pretty deep-pocketed to access them in bulk, distorting the market, and adding to information asymmetries.

There are a few enlightened jurisdictions, notably New Zealand and some US states, who do make all the filings available. Others, such as the UK or the Isle of Man charge for the filings, but do at least let you see what and when the filings were made, which is often useful in itself.

So with this in mind, a few weeks ago we started in the background collecting information on the filings. Sometimes this is just a description of the filing and the date of filing. Often it’s quite a lot more, including, for example, the name of new director, a move into liquidation. But when you put them together with other information, you start to get a more rounded view of a company. This, for example, is the page for a UK transport company called Stagecoach PLC:

And where company register is doing the right thing and making the filing itself available we’re also providing a direct download to the file:

Over the course of a relatively short period of time, we’ve already assembled over info on over 28 million official filings (yup, you read that right: 28 million). More than that, the number is growing at about half a million a day at the moment, so it shouldn’t be too long till we have 50 million (not bad for a micro-startup and the open data community).

It’s worth pointing out that we don’t yet have filings for all the companies we could have, simply because there’s quite a backlog to catch up on, but carrying on with the ‘Release Early, Release Often’ strategy we’ve followed so far, we thought it was worth showing those we did have, rather than hiding them away in the database.

However, if there is a company you’re interested in (and it’s one we can get filing info for), you don’t have to wait for it to be added to the queue automatically. Simply, press the button marked ‘update from registry’ (see below) and we’ll bump it to the front of the queue.

Less than 5 minutes later (in practice it’s often a matter of a few seconds – go ahead and try it), the company has been updated:

Finally, as you might have noticed from the above screenshot, there’s an RSS feed you can subscribe to to keep on top of a company’s latest filings, and of course we’re also going to be opening up the data as JSON and XML, to allow it to be reused in all sorts of ways.

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