Genera Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium include a large number of species and strains exhibiting important properties in an applied context, especially in the area of food and probiotics. An updated list of species belonging to those two genera, their phylogenetic relationships and other relevant taxonomic information are reviewed in this paper. The conventional nature of taxonomy is explained and some basic concepts and terms will be presented for readers not familiar with this important and fast-evolving area, which importance is often underestimated. The analysis of biodiversity and its cataloguing, i.e. taxonomy, constitute the basis for applications and scientific communication: reliable identification and correct naming of bacterial strains are not only primary aims of taxonomic studies, but also fundamental elements in an applied context, for the tracking of probiotic strains and a non fraudulent labelling of fermented milks and pharmaceutical products containing probiotic microorganisms. A number of resources freely available have been listed and their use is suggested for people concerned with different aspects of taxonomy. Some perspectives in taxonomy have been outlined, in particular considering the role of culture independent analyses to reveal the still unknown and uncultured microorganisms. Finally, the impact of the availability of whole-genome sequences in taxonomy is briefly explained: they have already begun to give insights on bacterial evolution, which will surely have implications on taxonomy, even if the analysis of data for lactic acid bacteria is still limited to few species.