A decade has now passed since Hubbell published The Unified Neutral Theory of Biodiversity and Biogeography. Neutral theory highlights the importance of dispersal limitation, speciation and ecological drift in the natural world and provides quantitative null models for assessing the role of adaptation and natural selection. Significant advances have been made in providing methods for understanding neutral predictions and comparing them with empirical data. In this review, we describe the current state-of-the-art techniques and ideas in neutral theory and how these are of relevance to ecology. The future of neutral theory is promising, but its concepts must be applied more broadly beyond the current focus on species-abundance distributions.