This Research initiative was led by DeepDAO, Kolektivo Labs, PrimeDAO & Open DeFi DAO. 20% of funds go to Catarina Horn (Visual artist), 20% to DeepDAO. Other contributors will be directing their percentage for funding future DAO research initiatives, including the maintenance of tooling-specific investigation.
November 2021: What tools can a DAO use? Analyses & infographics unpack the capabilities of Ethereum-based DAOs as provided by DAO Launchers and Tools.
DAOs are maturing. From social movements to financial exchanges, from legal documents to applicative science – DAOs have been seriously engaged by all such endeavors, and many more, whilst still fastly developing and expanding.
Within this article, we offer an analysis of two important components of the DAO space: DAO launchers and **DAO tools.
DAO launchers** are platforms that allow easy deployment of blockchain-native organizations to govern over agreements, funds, ownership, and more. “Launchers” here may be siloed products (e.g., Aragon Govern) or compositions of tools that frequently serve to create DAOs. DAO tools may complement launcher-endowed capabilities with additional features such as accounting, analytics, identity, etc.
Such DAOs Capabilities are therefore our basic building block, the unit of analysis. The concept of ‘Building Block’ is a prime crypto primitive. It is inherent to blockchain technology and to programming in general. Some of its more popular implementations include ‘money legos’, ‘governance legos’, blockchain layers, shared coding, etc. And it is also common in the terminology of virtually all DAO launchers reviewed here. Thus, we stand on firm grounds when we aim to present DAOs’ capabilities as DAOspace building blocks while maintaining their launcher/tool original context.
DAOs can be modeled as the composition of typical building blocks, and specifically: (1) a means of sensing the collective will of a group of stakeholders & arriving at decisions (i.e. Governance); and (2) the ability to actuate its governance decisions - the most common way is through tokenizing decision-making over a Treasury, which enhances not just simple trade, but also incentivized trust-minimal cooperation towards collective DAO goals.
DAO Launchers are functional frameworks that get DAOs up and running through a convenient and transparent platform. As detailed below, different DAO launchers endow DAOs with different sets of capabilities. Deploying a DAO without a launcher pack is possible, but it may demand specific skills that most communities (and even excellent programmers) do not effortlessly wield.
DAO Tools are modules that may help a team to create bespoke, custom-made DAOs - or can be used to supplement or enhance DAOs created through other Launchers. For example, snapshot + gnosis safe + an oracle is effectively the same implementation as Gnosis SafeSnap (Reality) Launcher. By combining this setup with Kleros, a decentralized arbitration tool, the DAO can introduce a Ricardian Contract directing the behavior of arbitrators, which may add decentralized checks and balances to pure token voting. Such a Ricardian clause might be, for example, “for the period of one year, no governance proposal shall be passed that distributes the treasury to token holders”.
The infographics ahead stand to present DAO launchers and DAO tools by the capabilities they endow DAOs to run their day-to-day.
The first infographic, below, is a zoom-out display of reviewed launchers and tools. It is shaped similarly a doughnut to represent an Ethereum DAO universe. DAO launchers have emerged from the blockchain space as planet-DAO factories, followed suit by a belt of orbiting DAO tools, mostly bound by Ethereum gravity but sometimes also space-bridged to other NetVerses, or possibly serve from an inclusive meta-space.
This space survey is not “complete”: firstly, the scope left out main web2 tools that greatly facilitate DAO communication, content, and community-building, such as Discord and Discourse (also serve soft decision-making), Telegram and other forums, exceptional blogging, media, events, and social networks. Secondly, the DAO space is evolving as we write, with many pre/alpha and otherwise projects that are not displayed.
All those deserve dedicated complementary research.
The second infographic unpacks the capabilities offered by DAO Launchers to their created DAOs: what does each launcher bring to the DAO table. Capabilities are color-coded as building blocks (e.g., Proposal system, decision-making modules, Accessibility, etc.), and their specifics are represented by symbols (e.g gas costs: 🙂= average, 😅= high, 😃= low) Followed by short descriptions of each launcher, this layout enhances a comparative Launchers view.
The third infographic is an outline of DAO tools. It presents the DAO sun at the center, and its tool-planets hovering around it. Short descriptions of the registered tools follow.
Within a hyper-connected decentralized human network that stands for open-source code and ideas, innovation and iteration move at the speed of light. Thus, next to the platforms and tools already in use, many others are being developed as we write. Here are some of those up-and-coming tools:
Prime Deals - The Interface for DAO to DAO interactions, such as token swaps, co-liquidity provision, and joint venture formation.
Superfluid - On-chain payment flows. Currently in early access.
XMTP - web3 communication protocols, messaging between wallets
Multis - automated payments, on and off-ramp & wallet tracking
While DAO launchers are still not too many to try and account for, they are way more diverse and modular than they were just a year ago or so. Moreover, serial open-stack DAO factories seem to be a growing trend (consider tokenized communities, legal smart contracts, DAOHaus, Colony, Tribute).
As the infographics show, launchers already offer various DAO governance suites, module stacks, governance blockchains, sandboxes, and other infrastructure. DAO tools likewise evolve and diversify, covering more and more use cases for DAOs’ needs.
Much like mapping the DAOspace by DAO trades, goals, industries, or AUMs, the representation of the DAOspace as a lego of DAO capabilities offers a lens, a meaning-making layer of our common environment.
It is yet to be seen how further the DAOspace would explore open interoperable building-blocks, and what other paths for DAO tooling may look like. As the ecosystem and its tools continue to multiply and diversify, we believe that DAOs may benefit from building-blocks research such as nuanced investigations into typical capability modules, the applicability of DAO legos, analysis of governance trends, and beyond!
*This is a work in progress: We are eager to continue exploring the DAO space and include more projects. Any contribution, comment, and insight are much appreciated. **On Discord: *The DAOist, DeepDAO, and PrimeDAO
We thank the good advice received from reviewers, and for the happy collaboration with The DAOist which brings this article up on Mirror!**
Research & writing
Noam Hofstadter, analyst & researcher, DeepDAO.io
Marek, blockchain researcher & advisor, Open DeFi DAO
Catarina Horn, graphic designer & illustrator, Kolektivo Labs