In the first part of this article we review what has been learnt from the analysis of the sequence of HCMV. A summary of this information is presented in the form of an updated map of the viral genome. HCMV is representative of a major lineage of herpesviruses distinct from previously sequenced members of this viral family and demonstrates striking differences in genetic content and organization. The virus encodes approximately 200 genes, including nine gene families, a large number of glycoprotein genes, and homologues of the human HLA class I and G protein-coupled receptor genes. The HCMV sequence thus provides a sound basis for future molecular studies of this highly complex eukaryotic virus. The second part discusses the practical rate of DNA sequencing as deduced from this and other studies. The 229 kilobase pair DNA genome of human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) strain AD169 is the largest contiguous sequence determined to date, and as such provides a realistic benchmark for assessing the practical rate of DNA sequencing as opposed to theoretical calculations which are usually much greater. The sequence was determined manually and we assess the impact of new developments in DNA sequencing.