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A direct detection of gravitational waves is still lacking today. A network of several earthbound interferometric detectors is currently operating with a continuously improving sensitivity. The window of interest for observation has a lower cut off in the frequency domain below some tens of hertz, determined by the effect of seismic motion. For larger frequencies, the sensitivity is limited by thermal effects below few hundreds of hertz and by the quantum nature of light above that value. Each of these sources of noise pose a big technological challenge to experimentalists, and there are big expectations for the next generation of detectors. A reduction of thermal effects by at least one order of magnitude will be obtained with new and carefully designed materials. At that point the quantum nature of light will become an issue, and the use of quantum non-demolition techniques will become mandatory. In this review, we discuss interferometric detection of gravitational waves from an instrumental point of view. We try to address conceptually important issues with an audience of non-experts in mind. A particular emphasis is given to the description of the current limitations and to the perspectives of beating them.