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In a metric space $M$ a set $O$ is called an open subset of $M$ or just open, if for every $x\in O$ there is an open ball $S$ around $x$ such that $S\subset O$. If $d(x,y)$ is the distance from $x$ to $y$ then the open ball $B_{r}$ with radius $r>0$ around $x$ is given as:
$B_{r}=\{y\in Md(x,y)<r\}.$ 
Using the idea of an open ball one can define a neighborhood of a point $x$. A set containing $x$ is called a neighborhood of $x$ if there is an open ball around $x$ which is a subset of the neighborhood.
These neighborhoods have some properties, which can be used to define a topological space using the Hausdorff axioms for neighborhoods, by which again an open set within a topological space can be defined. In this way we drop the metric and get the more general topological space. We can define a topological space $X$ with a set of neighborhoods of $x$ called $U_{x}$ for every $x\in X$, which satisfy
1. $x\in U$ for every $U\in U_{x}$
2. If $U\in U_{x}$ and $V\subset X$ and $U\subset V$ then $V\in U_{x}$ (every set containing a neighborhood of $x$ is a neighborhood of $x$ itself).
3. If $U,V\in U_{x}$ then $U\cap V\in U_{x}$.
4. For every $U\in U_{x}$ there is a $V\in U_{x}$, such that $V\subset U$ and $V\in U_{p}$ for every $p\in V$.
The last point leads us back to open sets, indeed a set $O$ is called open if it is a neighborhood of every of its points. Using the properties of these open sets we arrive at the usual definition of a topological space using open sets, which is equivalent to the above definition. In this definition we look at a set $X$ and a set of subsets of $X$, which we call open sets, called $\mathcal{O}$, having the following properties:
1. $\emptyset\in\mathcal{O}$ and $X\in\mathcal{O}$.
2. Any union of open sets is open.
3. Finite intersections of open sets are open.
Note that a topological space is more general than a metric space, i.e. on every metric space a topology can be defined using the open sets from the metric, yet we cannot always define a metric on a topological space such that all open sets remain open.
Examples:

On the real axis the interval $I=(0,1)$ is open because for every $a\in I$ the open ball with radius $\min(a,1a)$ is always a subset of $I$. (Using the standard metric $d(x,y)=xy$.)

The open ball $B_{r}$ around $x$ is open. Indeed, for every $y\in B_{r}$ the open ball with radius $rd(x,y)$ around y is a subset of $B_{r}$, because for every $z$ within this ball we have:
$d(x,z)\leq d(x,y)+d(y,z)<d(x,y)+rd(x,y)=r.$ So $d(x,z)<r$ and thus $z$ is in $B_{r}$. This holds for every $z$ in the ball around $y$ and therefore it is a subset of $B_{r}$

A nonmetric topology would be the finite complement topology on infinite sets, in which a set is called open, if its complement is finite.
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