Double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) is an important regulator of gene expression in many eukaryotes. It triggers different types of gene silencing that are collectively referred to as RNA silencing or RNA interference. A key step in known silencing pathways is the processing of dsRNAs into short RNA duplexes of characteristic size and structure. These short dsRNAs guide RNA silencing by specific and distinct mechanisms. Many components of the RNA silencing machinery still need to be identified and characterized, but a more complete understanding of the process is imminent.