As we approach the completed sequencing of 1,000 microbial genomes, the field of microbial genomics is poised at a crossroads. The future holds great promise for far-reaching advancements in microbiology as well as in diverse, related sciences. But realizing that potential will require meeting the challenges that have accompanied the rapid development of the underlying technology and the exponential growth of data. New technologies provide unprecedented opportunities but also call for conceptual shifts. Experience gained in the first decade of genomics can guide the improved approaches now needed for the selection of genome sequencing projects and their funding, for genome publication and annotation, as well as for data analysis and access. Equipped with these new tools and policies, microbiologists will have a unique opportunity for unprecedented exploration of our microbial planet.