Originally proposed one decade ago, the idea of engineering proteins outside the immunoglobulin family for novel binding functions has evolved as a powerful technology. Several classes of protein scaffolds proved to yield reagents with specificities and affinities in a range that was previously considered unique to antibodies. Such engineered protein scaffolds are usually obtained by designing a random library with mutagenesis focused at a loop region or at an otherwise permissible surface area and by selection of variants against a given target via phage display or related techniques. Whereas a plethora of protein scaffolds has meanwhile been proposed, only few of them were actually demonstrated to yield specificities towards different kinds of targets and to offer practical benefits such as robustness, smaller size, and ease of expression that justify their use as a true alternative to conventional antibodies or their recombinant fragments. Currently, the most promising scaffolds with broader applicability are protein A, the lipocalins, a fibronectin domain, an ankyrin consensus repeat domain, and thioredoxin. Corresponding binding proteins are not only of interest as research reagents or for separation in biotechnology but also as potential biopharmaceuticals, especially in the areas of cancer, autoimmune and infectious diseases as well as for in vivo diagnostics. The medical prospects have boosted high commercial expectations, and many of the promising scaffolds are under development by biotech start-up companies. Although some issues still have to be addressed, for example immunogenicity, effector functions, and plasma half-life in the context of therapeutic use or low-cost high-throughput selection for applications in proteomics research, it has become clear that scaffold-derived binding proteins will play an increasing role in biotechnology and medicine.