The main contribution of Teichmüller to the study of moduli was the introduction of quasiconformal mappings to the subject. They allow us to give much more depth to the study of moduli spaces by endowing them with additional features that were not present in the previous, more elementary works. After World War II the subject was developed further in this analytic vein, in particular by Lars Ahlfors and Lipman Bers. The theory continues to be active, with numerous studies of the complex structure of Teichmüller space (introduced by Bers).
The geometric vein in the study of Teichmüller space was revived following the work of William Thurston in the late 1970s, who introduced a geometric compactification which he used in his study of the mapping class group of a surface. Other more combinatorial objects associated to this group (in particular the curve complex) have also been related to Teichmüller space, and this is a very active subject of research in geometric group theory.
Instead of complex structures of hyperbolic metrics one can define Teichmüller space using conformal structures. Indeed, conformal structures are the same as complex structures in two (real) dimensions. Moreover, the Uniformisation Theorem also implies that in each conformal class of Riemannian metrics on a surface there is a unique metric of constant curvature.
All definitions above can be made in the topological category instead of the category of differentiable manifolds, and this does not change the objects.
A simple earthquake path in Teichmüller space is a path determined by varying a single shear or length Fenchel–Nielsen coordinate (for a fixed ideal triangulation of a surface). The name comes from seeing the ideal triangles or the pants as tectonic plates and the shear as plate motion.
More generally one can do earthquakes along geodesic laminations. A theorem of Thurston then states that two points in Teichmüller space are joined by a unique earthquake path.
There are several inequivalent compactifications of Teichmüller spaces that have been studied. Several of the earlier compactifications depend on the choice of a point in Teichmüller space so are not invariant under the modular group, which can be inconvenient. William Thurston later found a compactification without this disadvantage, which has become the most widely used compactification.
By looking at the hyperbolic lengths of simple closed curves for each point in Teichmüller space and taking the closure in the (infinite-dimensional) projective space, Thurston (1988) introduced a compactification whose points at infinity correspond to projective measured laminations. The compactified space is homeomorphic to a closed ball. This Thurston compactification is acted on continuously by the modular group. In particular any element of the modular group has a fixed point in Thurston's compactification, which Thurston used in his classification of elements of the modular group.
The Bers compactification is given by taking the closure of the image of the Bers embedding of Teichmüller space, studied by Bers (1970). The Bers embedding depends on the choice of a point in Teichmüller space so is not invariant under the modular group, and in fact the modular group does not act continuously on the Bers compactification.
The "points at infinity" in the Teichmüller compactification consist of geodesic rays (for the Teichmüller metric) starting at a fixed basepoint. This compactification depends on the choice of basepoint so is not acted on by the modular group, and in fact Kerckhoff showed that the action of the modular group on Teichmüller space does not extend to a continuous action on this compactification.
Gardiner & Masur (1991) considered a compactification similar to the Thurston compactification, but using extremal length rather than hyperbolic length. The modular group acts continuously on this compactification, but they showed that their compactification has strictly more points at infinity.
There has been an extensive study of the geometric properties of Teichmüller space endowed with the Teichmüller metric. Known large-scale properties include:
On the other hand, Teichmüller space exhibits several properties characteristic of hyperbolic spaces, such as:
Some of these features can be explained by the study of maps from Teichmüller space to the curve complex, which is known to be hyperbolic.
Since Teichmüller space is a complex manifold it carries a Carathéodory metric. Teichmüller space is Kobayashi hyperbolic and its Kobayashi metric coincides with the Teichmüller metric. This latter result is used in Royden's proof that the mapping class group is the full group of isometries for the Teichmüller metric.
Teichmüller space also carries a complete Kähler metric of bounded sectional curvature introduced by McMullen (2000) that is Kähler-hyperbolic.