The first use of microalgae by humans dates back 2000 years to the Chinese, who used Nostoc to survive during famine. However, microalgal biotechnology only really began to develop in the middle of the last century. Nowadays, there are numerous commercial applications of microalgae. For example, (i) microalgae can be used to enhance the nutritional value of food and animal feed owing to their chemical composition, (ii) they play a crucial role in aquaculture and (iii) they can be incorporated into cosmetics. Moreover, they are cultivated as a source of highly valuable molecules. For example, polyunsaturated fatty acid oils are added to infant formulas and nutritional supplements and pigments are important as natural dyes. Stable isotope biochemicals help in structural determination and metabolic studies. Future research should focus on the improvement of production systems and the genetic modification of strains. Microalgal products would in that way become even more diversified and economically competitive.