Quorum sensing is a cell-cell communication process in which bacteria use the production and detection of extracellular chemicals called autoinducers to monitor cell population density. Quorum sensing allows bacteria to synchronize the gene expression of the group, and thus act in unison. Here, we review the mechanisms involved in quorum sensing with a focus on the Vibrio harveyi and Vibrio cholerae quorum-sensing systems. We discuss the differences between these two quorum-sensing systems and the differences between them and other paradigmatic bacterial signal transduction systems. We argue that the Vibrio quorum-sensing systems are optimally designed to precisely translate extracellular autoinducer information into internal changes in gene expression. We describe how studies of the V. harveyi and V. cholerae quorum-sensing systems have revealed some of the fundamental mechanisms underpinning the evolution of collective behaviors.