I was delighted to learn somebody is trying to create a new, open-source model for producing opinions on creditworthiness. Any attempt to replace broken credit rating agencies as decision makers for who receives capital should be greeted as a wholly welcome step.Freerisk is not yet - and does not seem to hope to be - a replacement for rating agencies in their entirety. It is instead a way to lever individual analysts by allowing them to query across a wide range of SEC filings at once using a relatively simple language called SPARQL. In addition, it provides a framework for people to share insights from these statements with each other. In time, the creators hope to move to a more user-friendly way of getting data from their database (which is wonderful).
The creators are toying with the ability to include comments and insights from footnotes into standard query data in hopes of creating a fuller picture from a standard query.
A great potential "value add" for this comes in the example of highlighting an interesting footnote. Having read company filings, I can attest that a great deal of their footnotes are pretty boring. There are occasional gems contained therein which make the process worthwhile, but wouldn't it be nice if there was a way to get quickly to the interesting ones?
The difficulty that Freerisk and other projects like it will face in replacing credit rating agencies is that consumers have come accustomed to regarding credit simply: as a letter. There will always be a market for the distillation of knowledge that can be gathered off of a platform like Freerisk into a format that allows for simple, "thumbs up/thumbs down" evaluation.
If anything, I think freerisk is simply an excellent substitute for certain functions of a Bloomberg terminal for people willing to learn a Query language (not many). It's nice to see so much data opening up for public consumption, especially with the ability to share relevant insights on a public forum.