In just seven years, next-generation technologies have reduced the cost and increased the speed of DNA sequencing by four orders of magnitude, and experiments requiring many millions of sequencing reads are now routine. In research, sequencing is being applied not only to assemble genomes and to investigate the genetic basis of human disease, but also to explore myriad phenomena in organismic and cellular biology. In the clinic, the utility of sequence data is being intensively evaluated in diverse contexts, including reproductive medicine, oncology and infectious disease. A recurrent theme in the development of new sequencing applications is the creative 'recombination' of existing experimental building blocks. However, there remain many potentially high-impact applications of next-generation DNA sequencing that are not yet fully realized.