Species lists are widely used in legislation and regulation to manage and conserve biodiversity. In this paper, we explore the issues caused by the lack of an adequately governed and universally accepted list of the world’s species. These include lack of quality control, duplicated effort, conflicts of interest, lack of currency, and confusion in the scientific use of taxonomic information. If species lists are to fulfill their role efficiently, then the governance systems underlying their creation must keep pace. Fortunately, modernization of species list governance is now possible as a result of advances in biodiversity informatics and two decades of experience working to create the backbone of a global species list.