For example, episodes of continued unrest in Tunisia, the very nation that inspired the chain reaction of protests, show the enormity of what still needs to be done, says Sadok Belaid, a veteran law professor in Tunis, the capital.
"These young people are demanding things that are very simple, and I think very reasonable," says Mr. Belaid. Declaring that the interim government "will accede to the will of the people" in all matters, and speed toward an assembly, may ease opposition.
The election of a general assembly representing the whole country – not just a few political parties – to draft a new constitution is the top priority, he adds, followed by the overhaul of economic policy to address "urgent needs."
But applying such changes in Tunisia is already proving difficult.
Egypt might have an easier time forging democratic success, with its history of an organized opposition – despite tough crackdowns against the largest, the Muslim Brotherhood, among others – and an active civil society and institutions.
In Libya, by contrast, Muammar Qaddafi's repressive rule has erased any vestige of public opposition and blocked the formation of civil society groups or institutions. And yet popular committees and even military officers that defected to the antiregime side in eastern Libya very quickly set about preventing a power vacuum by engaging in self-rule.
In Bahrain, sectarian issues play a role amid the complaints against the monarchy, as the majority Shiites demand more rights from minority Sunni rulers.
The equation is different yet again in grindingly poor Yemen, where key demands center on jobs and better living conditions.