Demand has never been greater for revolutionary technologies that deliver fast, inexpensive and accurate genome information. This challenge has catalysed the development of next-generation sequencing (NGS) technologies. The inexpensive production of large volumes of sequence data is the primary advantage over conventional methods. Here, I present a technical review of template preparation, sequencing and imaging, genome alignment and assembly approaches, and recent advances in current and near-term commercially available NGS instruments. I also outline the broad range of applications for NGS technologies, in addition to providing guidelines for platform selection to address biological questions of interest.