Biofilms can be defined as communities of microorganisms attached to a surface. It is clear that microorganisms undergo profound changes during their transition from planktonic (free-swimming) organisms to cells that are part of a complex, surface-attached community. These changes are reflected in the new phenotypic characteristics developed by biofilm bacteria and occur in response to a variety of environmental signals. Recent genetic and molecular approaches used to study bacterial and fungal biofilms have identified genes and regulatory circuits important for initial cell-surface interactions, biofilm maturation, and the return of biofilm microorganisms to a planktonic mode of growth. Studies to date suggest that the planktonic-biofilm transition is a complex and highly regulated process. The results reviewed in this article indicate that the formation of biofilms serves as a new model system for the study of microbial development.