The covalent DNA modification of cytosine at position 5 (5-methylcytosine; 5mC) has emerged as an important epigenetic mark most commonly present in the context of CpG dinucleotides in mammalian cells. In pluripotent stem cells and plants, it is also found in non-CpG and CpNpG contexts, respectively. 5mC has important implications in a diverse set of biological processes, including transcriptional regulation. Aberrant DNA methylation has been shown to be associated with a wide variety of human ailments and thus is the focus of active investigation. Methods used for detecting DNA methylation have revolutionized our understanding of this epigenetic mark and provided new insights into its role in diverse biological functions. Here we describe recent technological advances in genome-wide DNA methylation analysis and discuss their relative utility and drawbacks, providing specific examples from studies that have used these technologies for genome-wide DNA methylation analysis to address important biological questions. Finally, we discuss a newly identified covalent DNA modification, 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC), and speculate on its possible biological function, as well as describe a new methodology that can distinguish 5hmC from 5mC.