Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) are an abundant form of genome variation, distinguished from rare variations by a requirement for the least abundant allele to have a frequency of 1% or more. A wide range of genetics disciplines stand to benefit greatly from the study and use of SNPs. The recent surge of interest in SNPs stems from, and continues to depend upon, the merging and coincident maturation of several research areas, i.e. (i) large-scale genome analysis and related technologies, (ii) bio-informatics and computing, (iii) genetic analysis of simple and complex disease states, and (iv) global human population genetics. These fields will now be propelled forward, often into uncharted territories, by ongoing discovery efforts that promise to yield hundreds of thousands of human SNPs in the next few years. Major questions are now being asked, experimentally, theoretically and ethically, about the most effective ways to unlock the full potential of the upcoming SNP revolution.