PIWI-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) are germline-enriched small RNAs that control transposons to maintain genome integrity. To achieve this, upon being processed from piRNA precursors, most of which are transcripts of intergenic piRNA clusters, piRNAs bind PIWI proteins, germline-specific Argonaute proteins, to form effector complexes. The mechanism of this piRNA-mediated transposon silencing pathway is fundamentally similar to that of siRNA/miRNA-dependent gene silencing in that a small RNA guides its partner Argonaute protein to target gene transcripts for repression via RNA-RNA base pairing. However, the uniqueness of this piRNA pathway has emerged through intensive genetic, biochemical, bioinformatic, and structural investigations. Here, we review the studies that elucidated the piRNA pathway, mainly in Drosophila, by describing both historical and recent progress. Studies in other species that have made important contributions to the field are also described.