For almost three decades, interest has continued to increase with respect to the application of fiber-optic sensing techniques for the upstream oil and gas industry. This paper reviews optical sensing technologies that have been and are being adopted downhole, as well as their drivers. A brief description of the life of a well, from the cradle to the grave, and the roles fiber-optic sensing can play in optimizing production, safety, and protection of the environment are also presented. The performance expectations (accuracy, resolution, stability, and operational lifetime) that oil companies and oil service companies have for fiber-optic sensing systems is described. Additionally, the environmental conditions (high hydrostatic pressures, high temperatures, shock, vibration, crush, and chemical exposure) that these systems must tolerate to provide reliable and economically attractive oilfield monitoring solutions are described.