What is "DAO" and other glossary


Dear experts,
in several #dgov discussions, we’ve run into a problem of not having clear terms to operate. What is DAO, what is governance and what is not. So I’ve started to form some draft on the glossary here, that we can together improve and refer to when needed.

Please share your feedback and contribute :wink:


Some thoughts:

  • dOrg – what does this mean taxonomically? Does it encompass all of the discussed definition? Is it another term in its own right that refers to more human-centric (ie. co-op) DAO strutures? @dOrgJelli

  • Your definition of “DAO” seems fairly narrow to me. Curation DAOs don’t necessarily “hire” individuals – a great example is Subreddits. There’s no ‘payment’ for upvoting/downvoting content (a primitive form of curation). People just ‘do it.’

  • Legitimacy is an interesting topic – in my opinion it highlights the divide between different voting systems, e.g. tokens vs. reputation. People who support reputation systems probably find economic governance (tokens, stocks) to be illegitimate in some sense; others may feel governance through wealth is perfectly legitimate. Would love to see this fleshed out.

  • I love your definition for Platform – and it’s very relevant to Genesis’ future duties as a “Coordinator DAO.” As Coordinator it will (probably) manage 40m GEN and align ecosystemic incentives. I would love to see/learn about other examples…

I hope you find these helpful!


@Pat Are you looking for a formal definition of the term “dOrg”? If so, myself and others working within the dOrg collective haven’t given “dOrg” a strict definition or set of standards. Rather just using the term as a shorthand for any type of (Digital / Decentralized / Distributed) Organization. I do however love the definition you’ve started to articulate, as this is very aligned with how we plan to operate (more on this below). I do think it could be a great term that encompasses things at a higher order of abstraction (ex: DAO & DAC are both dOrgs). dOrg as a set contains any [Decentralized Organization, Digital Organization, Distributed Organization].

Additional disclaimer: the dOrg collective is not claiming to have coined, or is seeking own the term dOrg. If the collective’s developments & practices end up aligning with a formal definition, then so be it.

Here is an excerpt from an early README where we try to explain our early thinking behind the term:
We wanted something that was easy for anyone, inside or outside the blockchain community, to remember and become familiar with. We think that the term dApp was extremely successful in doing this for Decentralized Apps, which brought us to thinking dOrg for Decentralized Organizations was a good fit.

The term DAO has become a standard in the blockchain community, and we do not aim to replace. We plan to use the term DAO in all technical documentation, and will only use dOrg as an up front “new user friendly” term.

We have however started to formalize how we plan to operate going forward:
A freelancer cooperative committed to enhancing the means of coordination.

dOrg is owned and controlled by its contributors, not external investors. Our representational forms— both on and off-chain— are designed to harness our collective power while protecting each agent’s autonomy. We aim to leverage economies of scale without sacrificing fair and reliable compensation.

More information found here: https://github.com/dOrgTech/vision


Thanks for your points.
So far that glossary doesn’t contain any of my definitions, only one I’ve found in other sources (they are stated there). If you would like to provide alternative definition from other sources or you – that would be very welcome (either here or straight in wiki via PR).

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Added Yalda and Matans definitions here: https://wiki.dgov.foundation/resources/glossary

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Nothing wrong with this very broad definition, but I’d suggest using one that is more consistent with our concerns and goals at DGOV, namely distributed governance, and the crypto-space in general (see this for instance).

In a nutshell, something like “Commons are natural or cultural resources shared and managed by a community, according to a set of explicit rules defined by the community”.

Rather than wikipedia, I’d pick the definition offered by the Michel Bauwens: “A commons is a 1) shared resources (i.e. there is something objective about it) 2) maintained or co-produced by a community or group of stakeholders (hence: a subjective activity and choice, ‘there is no commons without commoning’) and 3) it is managed according to te rules and values of that community (‘autonormativity’), which makes it also into an alternative governance and property regime”. (source)

In the same page, there are a lot of useful definitions. Another that I like is:
The main variables of a commons are:

  • a resource (replenishable or depletable)
  • the people who share this commons (users, managers, producers and providers)
  • the rules governing people’s access to — and benefit from — these common resources
  • the value created through the preservation or production of these common goods

I never understood the definition of Gavin Wood. It’s not clearer here, and it’s the first one offered to the reader. If it’s only me, fine (please guys help me to get it). If you think as well that—at least in this form–it is very obscure, then maybe we could remove it.

I like Vlad’s reference to legitimacy because it shifts the definition beyond the limited scope of “decision-making” mechanisms. According to Wikipedia, Lijun and Wei state that governance refers “to the actions and processes by which stable practices and organizations arise and persist”. In this sense, and in the context of decentralized organizations, legitimacy seems to be an essential factor of persistance indeed.

I like the reference to etymology in Wikipedia: “Like government , the word governance derives, ultimately, from the Greek verb kubernaein [ kubernáo ], meaning to steer”. In French, it’s the same root as “gouvernail”, which means the “helm”, the “steering wheel”. I think that this element is crucial, as it makes the difference between governance and management, strategy and tactic, goals and execution. Governance is about agreeing on the goals and defining the meta-rules, whereas operational decisions are made within an existing frame. For instance, corporate governance has been seen as a way to align the interests of the executives with those of the shareholders, in order to maximize the value for the shareholders (which becomes the major goal of the organization).

I understand that this is just my opinion and more work is needed here, but I precisely wanted to make a point that it’s badly needed on a “DGOV” reference page :slight_smile:. Moreover, I disagree with Hudson’s definition (at least with the idea that we should put it here at the forefront). Governance is not “who makes the decisions and how to make them”. All decisions are not a matter of governance.

Probably too many definitions here, although it reflects the current lack of consensus on what it is. I’d get rid of the Investopedia definition, since it alludes specifically to “The DAO” and not DAOs in general.

I would add the definition put forward by COALA: “A DAO means a smart-contract based heterarchical, distributed and trustless network that operates according to transparent and stakeholder-governed rules on a permissionless blockchain”.

I’d argue that this definition captures most of what is included in alternatives by Matan, Blockchain Hub, Tim, Steven. I disagree with Yalda’s definition, but it’s different. I agree with Richard Burton’s (is it his real name?) one, but again it’s different. So it would be a big simplification to use COALA’s instead of the others. Just my 2 cents.


2014 Initial definitions by Vitalik Buterin :card_file_box:
DAOs, DACs, DAs and More: An Incomplete Terminology Guide

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