Technical advances and development in the market for genomic tools have facilitated access to whole-genome data across species. Building-up on the acquired knowledge of the genome sequences, large-scale genotyping has been optimized for broad use, so genotype information can be routinely used to predict genetic merit. Genomic selection (GS) refers to the use of aggregates of estimated marker effects as predictors which allow improved individual differentiation at young age. Realizable benefits of GS are influenced by several factors and vary in quantity and quality between species. General characteristics and challenges of GS in implementation and routine application are described, followed by an overview over the current status of its use, prospects and challenges in important animal species. Genetic gain for a particular trait can be enhanced by shortening of the generation interval, increased selection accuracy and increased selection intensity, with species- and breed-specific relevance of the determinants. Reliable predictions based on genetic marker effects require assembly of a reference for linking of phenotype and genotype data to allow estimation and regular re-estimation. Experiences from dairy breeding have shown that international collaboration can set the course for fast and successful implementation of innovative selection tools, so genomics may significantly impact the structures of future breeding and breeding programmes. Traits of great and increasing importance, which were difficult to improve in the conventional systems, could be emphasized, if continuous availability of high-quality phenotype data can be assured. Equally elaborate strategies for genotyping and phenotyping will allow tailored approaches to balance efficient animal production, sustainability, animal health and welfare in future.