DAO stands for Decentralized Autonomous Organization. As the name suggests, a DAO is an organization automated by computer code and open for anyone to participate (as long as they meet some basic requirements). Being autonomous means that smart contracts help run the majority of the processes without human interference. A DAO is created and managed by a community, which collectively manages its funds and projects.
DAOs became well-known with Ethereum’s 2016 venture capital fund “The DAO”. Unfortunately, by three weeks into the token sale, the project suffered an attack due to a vulnerability in the code. The funds were later restored due to a hard fork. Despite the early challenges, the DAO concept has improved over the years, and is now one of the most popular governance models for Decentralized Finance (DeFi) projects.
Each DAO is different, but most follow the same basic principles. Anyone holding the DAO’s governance token has voting power proportional to the number of tokens they own. Holders can also make proposals for changes in how the DAO operates.