When there is relative motion between two surfaces, there is a resistance to the motion. This force is called friction. Friction is the reason why people could not accept Newton's first law of Motion, that an object tends to keep its state of motion. Friction acts opposite to the direction of the original force. The frictional force is equal to the frictional coefficient times the normal force.
Friction is caused due to attractive forces between the molecules near the surfaces of the objects. If two steel plates are made really flat and polished and cleaned and made to touch in a vacuum, it bonds together. It would look as if the steel was just one piece. The bonds are formed as in a normal steel piece. This is called cold welding. And this is the main cause of friction.
The above equation is an empirical one--in general, the frictional coefficient is not constant. However, for a large variety of contact surfaces, there is a well characterized value. This kind of friction is called Coulomb friction. There is a separate coefficient for both static and kinetic friction. This is because once an object is pushed on, it will suddenly jerk once you apply enough force and it begins to move.
Also, the frictional coefficient varies greatly depending on what two substances are in contact, and the temperature and smoothness of the two substances. For example, the frictional coefficients of glass on glass are very high. When you have similar materials, in most cases you don't have Coulomb friction.