The paper briefly reviews the development of the concept of DNA barcoding, a technique that proposes to identify species by analysis of short DNA sequences. The differences between this method and the concept of a DNA taxonomy based on sequence data as a universal reference system in biology are illucidated. The promises, limitations and restrictions of the different approaches are discussed. Barcoding is a useful systematic tool especially in connection with classical methods. It represents a valuable complement to conventional practice when applied to problems beyond the reach of morphological studies, such as the determination of larval stages. DNA barcoding studies detached from the fundament of integrative systematic research, however, are problematic.