Decentralized autonomous organizations, or DAOs, have become an increasingly popular topic in the blockchain and cryptocurrency space. These unique digital organizations operate entirely on the blockchain and allow for decentralized decision-making and governance by their members.
This article aims to provide a comprehensive history of DAOs, from their earliest origins to their current state of development. We will explore the key milestones and events that have shaped the evolution of DAOs, including the infamous DAO hack, as well as the emerging use cases and examples of these unique digital organizations.
By understanding the history and current state of DAOs, we can gain a deeper insight into their potential impact on the future of decentralized governance and decision-making.
A “DAO – Decentralized Anonymous Organization” term was invented (coined) by Vitalik Buterin in 2013.
However, Vitalk points out that a few months earlier in the same year, Daniel Larimer developed the concept of a “Decentralized Autonomous Corporation” (DAC). But a fundamental idea of “decentralized automation” is much older, and his (Vitalik’s) views of decentralized organizations were inspired by Daniel Suarez’s science fiction novel “Daemon.”
History of Decentralized Organizations: Timeline
Let’s look at the history of decentralized organizations, also known as DAOs. It’s a fascinating journey that spans over a decade and has seen significant developments and innovations in blockchain technology and decentralized governance.
1960 – 1970
First mentions of the decentralization concept in academic journals, laying the foundation for future results.
Werner Dilger wrote a journal article on the “Internet of Things” (IoT), describing a decentralized network of interconnected devices.
Daniel Suarez’s science fiction novel “Daemon” explores the concept of decentralized organizations in a prehistoric context, influencing future developments.
The Bitcoin network, created by Satoshi Nakamoto, is considered the first example of a DAO. Nakamoto released the Bitcoin white paper and mined the Genesis Block on Jan. 3, 2009.
Notable DAO projects launched in 2015:
- Dash DAO launched in 2015. Dash is a cryptocurrency created as a fork of Bitcoin. The Dash DAO, also known as the Dash Decentralized Autonomous Organization, was created to manage the development and promotion of the Dash cryptocurrency.
- MakerDAO is a decentralized finance (DeFi) platform on the Ethereum blockchain, founded in 2015 by Rune Christensen. The concept behind MakerDAO was to create a decentralized stablecoin that would be backed by a collateralized debt position (CDP). The idea was that users could deposit Ether (ETH) as collateral and then mint a stablecoin called Dai, which would be pegged to the US dollar. After months of development and testing, the MakerDAO platform officially launched in December 2017. The platform initially struggled to gain traction, but it gained popularity in 2018 as interest in the DeFi ecosystem grew.
DAOs gained popularity when “The DAO,” a blockchain-based investment fund, raised over $150 million in crowdfunding. However, it faces a controversial hack that leads to its dissolution.
Notable DAO projects launched in 2016:
- The DAO is the most famous DAO launch, raising more than $150 million from investors. However, later this year, a vulnerability in the code was exploited, allowing an attacker to siphon off a significant portion of the funds (worth about $50 million at the time) into a separate account. This event led to a hard fork of the Ethereum blockchain and the creation of Ethereum Classic.
- DigixDAO was founded by Shaun Djie and KC Chng in 2014, and the DigixDAO token (DGD) was launched in an initial coin offering (ICO) in 2016. The platform officially launched in 2018, allowing users to purchase DGX tokens backed by 1 gram of 99.99% LBMA-approved gold. The DigixDAO community continues to work on improving the platform and expanding its use cases.
- Golem was announced in April 2016, led by Golem Factory. The project was created to build a decentralized network of computers that could be used to power complex computational tasks. The Golem network became available to the public in April 2018, allowing users to rent out their computing power or purchase it from others.
- Aragon is a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) platform founded by Luis Cuende and Jorge Izquierdo in 2016. The project was created to make creating and managing DAOs on the Ethereum blockchain easier. Aragon launched in 2017 and has become one of the most popular DAO platforms. The Aragon community continues to work on improving the platform and expanding its capabilities, with a focus on making DAOs more accessible and user-friendly.
An explosion of infrastructure and tooling applications emerge, heading the current era of DAOs.
Notable DAO projects launched in 2017-2022:
- Gnosis launched in April 2018. It’s a prediction market platform that allows users to bet on the outcome of real-world events.
- Uniswap launched in November 2018. Uniswap is a decentralized exchange that allows users to trade cryptocurrencies without intermediaries.
- MolochDAO launched in February 2019. MolochDAO is a DAO that funds Ethereum projects and comprises members of the Ethereum community.
- DAOstack launched in April 2019. DAOstack is a platform that enables the creation and management of decentralized organizations and the development of decentralized applications.
- DXdao launched in May 2019. DXdao is a DAO focusing on developing and launching decentralized financial products on Ethereum.
- Compound Finance launched in September 2018. Compound Project is a decentralized lending and borrowing platform that allows users to earn interest on their cryptocurrency holdings or borrow cryptocurrency at a fixed rate.
- MetaCartel DAO launched in May 2019. MetaCartel is a community-driven DAO that funds and supports early-stage Ethereum projects. The DAO operates through a membership system, with members collectively deciding which projects to fund and support.
- Curve DAO launched in January 2020. Curve DAO is a decentralized exchange allowing users to trade stablecoins with low slippage and fees.
- Yearn Finance launched in February 2020. It is a decentralized platform that allows users to earn high yields on their cryptocurrency holdings through automated yield farming strategies.
- The LAO launched in February 2020. The LAO (Limited Liability Autonomous Organization) is a venture DAO that invests in early-stage blockchain startups. Members of the DAO pool their funds to invest in promising projects, with voting rights and profit-sharing distributed based on the number of funds contributed.
- Snapshot DAO is a decentralized governance platform that enables communities to make collective decisions and proposals through on-chain voting. Launched in April 2020, Snapshot allows anyone to create and submit a proposal for voting, with votes recorded and tallied on the Ethereum blockchain.
- DAOhaus launched in June 2020. DAOhaus is a platform that enables the creation and management of DAOs. The platform provides tools and templates for users to easily create and customize their DAOs, with features such as token issuance, voting systems, and funding management.
- Karma DAO launched in September 2020. Karma DAO is a community-driven platform that enables users to reward and incentivize positive actions and behaviors. The DAO operates through a system of karma points, with users able to earn and distribute karma to recognize and encourage helpful or charitable actions.
- Flamingo DAO launched in October 2021. Flamingo DAO is a decentralized collective that invests in and supports emerging artists and creators. Members of the DAO pool their funds to invest in promising artists and their work, with voting rights and profit-sharing distributed based on the number of funds contributed.
- ConstitutionDAO launched in November 2021. ConstitutionDAO was a crowdfunding DAO that aimed to purchase a rare copy of the US Constitution at auction. The DAO raised over $47 million in cryptocurrency from thousands of contributors but ultimately lost the auction to a higher bidder.
Each of these DAOs represents a unique approach to decentralized governance and community-driven decision-making, and they demonstrate the broad potential of DAOs to support a wide range of use cases and applications.
2022 and beyond
DAOs have come a long way since their inception in the early 2000s. They have evolved from simple experiments to complex decentralized organizations that can manage millions of dollars worth of assets. Despite facing challenges such as the infamous DAO hack, the concept of decentralized autonomous organizations has continued to grow and gain acceptance in the mainstream.
The rise of DAOs has opened up new possibilities for community-driven governance and decision-making, where stakeholders have direct control over the organization’s direction. It has also paved the way for a new era of decentralized finance (DeFi), where individuals have greater control over their financial assets and can participate in decentralized investment opportunities.
Seeing how DAOs continue developing and evolving will be interesting as we progress. With the continued growth of the blockchain ecosystem and the increasing demand for decentralized governance, DAOs are poised to play a significant role in shaping the future of organizations and communities.