Neutrophils are innate immune phagocytes that have a central role in immune defence. Our understanding of the role of neutrophils in pathogen clearance, immune regulation and disease pathology has advanced dramatically in recent years. Web-like chromatin structures known as neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs) have been at the forefront of this renewed interest in neutrophil biology. The identification of molecules that modulate the release of NETs has helped to refine our view of the role of NETs in immune protection, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases and cancer. Here, I discuss the key findings and concepts that have thus far shaped the field of NET biology.