Biofilms transform independent cells into specialized cell communities. Here are presented some insights into biofilm formation ascertained with the best-characterized strain, Escherichia coli. Investigations of biofilm formation and inhibition with this strain using whole-transcriptome profiling coupled to phenotypic assays, in vivo DNA binding studies and isogenic mutants have led to discoveries related to the role of stress, to the role of intra- and interspecies cell signalling, to the impact of the environment on cell signalling, to biofilm inhibition by manipulating cell signalling, to the role of toxin/antitoxin genes in biofilm formation, and to the role of small RNAs on biofilm formation and dispersal. Hence, E. coli is an excellent resource for determining paradigms in biofilm formation and biofilm inhibition.