More than 20 complete prokaryotic genome sequences are now publicly available, each by itself an unparalleled resource for understanding organismal biology. Collectively, these data are even more powerful: they could force a dramatic reworking of the framework in which we understand biological evolution. It is possible that a single universal phylogenetic tree is not the best way to depict relationships between all living and extinct species. Instead a web- or net-like pattern, reflecting the importance of horizontal or lateral gene transfer between lineages of organisms, might provide a more appropriate visual metaphor. Here, I ask whether this way of thinking is really justified, and explore its implications.