Three glass-forming alloy compositions were chosen for ribbon production and subsequent electron microscopy studies. In situ tensile testing with transmission electron microscopy (TEM), followed by ex situ TEM and ex situ scanning electron microscopy (SEM), allowed the deformation processes in tensile fracture of metallic glasses to be analysed. In situ shear band propagation was found to be jump-like, with the jump sites correlating with the formation of secondary shear bands. The effect of structural relaxation by in situ heating is also discussed. Nanocrystallization near the fracture surface was observed; however, no crystallization was also reported in the same sample and the reasons for this are discussed. Both the TEM and the SEM observations confirmed the presence of a liquid-like layer on or near the fracture surface of the ribbons. The formation of a liquid-like layer was characterized by the vein geometries and vein densities on the fracture surfaces and its dependence on shear displacement, 6, is discussed. A simple model is adapted to relate the temperature rise during shear banding to the glass transition and melting temperatures and this is used to explain the variety of fracture surfaces which are developed for macroscopically identical tensile testing of metallic glasses together with features which exhibit local melting. (c) 2007 Acta Materialia Inc. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.