The potyviruses are one of the two most speciose taxa of plant viruses. Our expanded knowledge of the breadth and depth of their diversity and its origins has depended greatly on the use of computing and the Internet in biological research and is reviewed here. We report a fully supported phylogeny based on gene sequence data for approximately half the named species. The phylogeny shows that the genus probably originated from a virus of monocotyledonous plants and that it first diverged approximately 7250 years ago in Southwest Eurasia or North Africa. The use of computer programs to better understand the structure and evolutionary trajectory of potyvirus populations is illustrated. The review concludes with recommendations for improving potyvirus nomenclature and the databasing of potyvirus information.