Viruses are the most abundant biological entity on Earth, infect cellular organisms from all domains of life, and are central players in the global biosphere. Over the last century, the discovery and characterization of viruses have progressed steadily alongside much of modern biology. In terms of outright numbers of novel viruses discovered, however, the last few years have been by far the most transformative for the field. Advances in methods for identifying viral sequences in genomic and metagenomic datasets, coupled to the exponential growth of environmental sequencing, have greatly expanded the catalog of known viruses and fueled the tremendous growth of viral sequence databases. Development and implementation of new standards, along with careful study of the newly discovered viruses, have transformed and will continue to transform our understanding of microbial evolution, ecology, and biogeochemical cycles, leading to new biotechnological innovations across many diverse fields, including environmental, agricultural, and biomedical sciences.