During embryonic development, the array of vastly different neuronal types that are incorporated into the functional architecture of the mature neuroretina derives from a common population of multipotent retinal progenitor cells (RPCs). Retinogenesis proceeds in a precise chronological order, with the seven principal cell classes generated in successive phases. Cell biological experiments established that this histogenetic order, at least in part, reflects intrinsic changes within the RPC pool. In recent years a number of molecules controlling various aspects of cell fate specification from RPCs have been identified. However, few attempts have been made to integrate previous concepts that emerged from cell biological studies and more recent results based on molecular genetic experiments. This review aims at providing an overview of recent advances in our understanding of the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying retinal neuronal diversification, with a particular focus on cell-intrinsic factors.