Perhaps the biggest single task facing a bacterial cell is to divide into daughter cells that contain the normal complement of chromosomes. Recent technical and conceptual breakthroughs in bacterial cell biology, combined with the flood of genome sequence information and the excellent genetic tools in several model systems, have shed new light on the mechanism of prokaryotic cell division. There is good evidence that in most species, a molecular machine, organized by the tubulin-like FtsZ protein, assembles at the site of division and orchestrates the splitting of the cell. The determinants that target the machine to the right place at the right time are beginning to be understood in the model systems, but it is still a mystery how the machine actually generates the constrictive force necessary for cytokinesis. Moreover, although some cell division determinants such as FtsZ are present in a broad spectrum of prokaryotic species, the lack of FtsZ in some species and different profiles of cell division proteins in different families suggests that there are diverse mechanisms for regulating cell division.