The present classification of a number of arthropathies linked to the B27 antigen under the term spondylarthropathy emphasises the frequent familial aggregation and clustering during follow-up of these diseases. This article is an attempt to review the progress elicited by the introduction of classification criteria for spondylarthropathy and the limitations of the concept. In particular, we address the continued need for better understanding of aetiology and pathogenesis. This makes it likely that we will need new classifications in the future and that this will evolve along with improvements in disease understanding. Working classifications that include the infectious triggers and features of the host response might be useful to guide new approaches.