Advantages of web-based learning (WBL) in medical education include overcoming barriers of distance and time, economies of scale, and novel instructional methods, while disadvantages include social isolation, up-front costs, and technical problems. Web-based learning is purported to facilitate individualised instruction, but this is currently more vision than reality. More importantly, many WBL instructional designs fail to incorporate principles of effective learning, and WBL is often used for the wrong reasons (e.g., for the sake of technology). Rather than trying to decide whether WBL is superior to or equivalent to other instructional media (research addressing this question will always be confounded), we should accept it as a potentially powerful instructional tool, and focus on learning when and how to use it. Educators should recognise that high fidelity, multimedia, simulations, and even WBL itself will not always be necessary to effectively facilitate learning.