Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAOs) are large scale organizations that have no central authority or government. Rather, the body is controlled democratically by its shareholders through smart contracts and decisions are recorded on the blockchain. The most well-known of DAO’s is the DAO that formed on the Ethereum blockchain, and which was subsequently hacked, resulting in a loss of $50 million.
A term that grew in popularity with the advent of blockchain networks, decentralized organizations do not have the typical structure of a corporate organization i.e. something that is pyramidal. In the DAO’s case, governance is chiefly conducted with the help of smart contracts. Besides bringing the benefits associated with decentralization - transparency, immutability, security etc. - DAOs are also cost effective and, through token economics, good at incentivizing users to participate.
Several DAOs have already been formed, including projects themselves, such as Aragon, BitShares, Dash and Digix. The governance mechanisms on such platforms allow users to propose changes and vote on such changes.
Given that that there is no one power controlling the network, and that decentralized networks belong to no nation state, there has been some discussion on the legal status of DAOs. It continues to stir debate.