A state-of-the-art description of photo-induced effects observed in amorphous chalcogenides is presented with the accent on the underlying physics. A comparison is made between sulphur(selenium)-based chalcogenides where numerous photo-induced phenomena take place entirely within the amorphous phase and tellurides where a crystal-to-amorphous phase-change is a major effect and correlations between various phenomena and structure and glass-forming ability are discussed. Applications of photo-induced metastability in devices - present and upcoming optical memories among others - are discussed, while, to orient the reader, the various disc formats are described. Background material essential for understanding current research in the field is also provided.

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