Synapses are not static; their performance is modified adaptively in response to activity. Presynaptic mechanisms that affect the probability of transmitter release or the amount of transmitter that is released are important in synaptic diversification. Here, we address the diversity of presynaptic performance and its underlying mechanisms: how much of the variation can be accounted for by variation in synaptic morphology and how much by molecular differences? Significant progress has been made in defining presynaptic structural contributions to synaptic strength; by contrast, we know little about how presynaptic proteins produce normally observed functional differentiation, despite abundant information on presynaptic proteins and on the effects of their individual manipulation. Closing the gap between molecular and physiological synaptic diversification still represents a considerable challenge.