Haemophilus influenzae is genetically diverse and exists as a near-ubiquitous human commensal or as a pathogen. Invasive type b disease has been almost eliminated in developed countries; however, unencapsulated strains - nontypeable H. influenzae (NTHi) - remain important as causes of respiratory infections. Respiratory tract disease occurs when NTHi adhere to or invade respiratory epithelial cells, initiating one or more of several proinflammatory pathways. Biofilm formation explains many of the observations seen in chronic otitis media and chronic bronchitis. However, NTHi biofilms seem to lack a biofilm-specific polysaccharide in the extracellular matrix, a source of controversy regarding their relevance. Successful commensalism requires dampening of the inflammatory response and evasion of host defenses, accomplished in part through phase variation.