Not long after the advent of blockchain and smart contracts, crypto users realized that this novel technology could power a new type of governance structure: decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs). A DAO is an entity made up of participants who have a common goal, and they can operate like any company or other organization.
Similar to the way boards of directors of corporations like Apple or Microsoft oversee their companies and approve how money is spent, DAOs can perform similar functions with their own (often blockchain-based) projects. However, the governance of a DAO decentralized, such that all members have voting privileges, usually weighted by how many tokens they hold. These governance tokens allow community members to have a voice—and an economic stake—in any project (and DAO) that suits their interests.
The founders of Aragon appreciated the strengths in this model, and they created Aragon to provide tools for developers to create and manage DAOs on Ethereum and Polygon. Its offerings include a protocol for building on-chain DAOs, a software development kit (SDK) that allows developers to use a familiar coding language rather than Ethereum’s Solidity language, and an app that allows users without coding knowledge to launch DAOs.
Aragon touts its own DAO and its own governance token: the Aragon Network Token (ANT). The Aragon DAO is comprised of ANT token holders who can vote on proposals to make changes to the platform and choose how to direct funds in Aragon’s treasury.
How was Aragon developed?
Aragon was founded in November 2016 by Spanish-born Luis Cuende and Jorge Izquierdo. Before Aragon, Cuende previously founded multiple other start-ups focused on varied subjects such as software development, loyalty cards, and invalidating bad patents. Izquierdo worked at one of these companies with Cuende before the two men teamed up to found Aragon. He then served as Aragon’s CEO until stepping down in 2021, citing disagreements with business decisions.
In October 2017, Aragon revealed aragonOS, a framework of smart contracts built to help developers and DAOs manage their creations through decentralized governance. In 2020, the platform announced the Aragon Network Jurisdiction, which was designed as a way to arbitrate disputes using bonded assets (ANT) and a system of “judges.” The next year, Aragon acquired another crypto project called Vocdoni in hopes of expanding its reach. It continued to build and modify its products through 2021 and 2022.
However, controversy surrounded the project in 2023 when an activist group of investors accumulated ANT in order to exert influence over Aragon’s own DAO. This compelled Aragon to cancel its plans to give its community control over the treasury, which was worth about $200 million at the time. Further allegations about plans for a private sale of the project followed, although no such sale occurred. Still, despite both internal and external discord, Aragon released a new version of its platform in March of that year: Aragon OSx.
The Aragon Association is a non-profit legal entity based in Switzerland that backs the project, having overseen the ANT token sale and managing the funds raised through it. The ANT initial coin offering (ICO) in 2017 raised more than $25 million worth of ETH to support the Aragon project in under 30 minutes.
How does Aragon work?
Aragon provides web3 users with a software stack, which is a collection of tools that can be used to build a solution or platform—in this case, DAOs. Its base layer is called Aragon OSx, which is made up of two types of smart contracts.
The core contracts provide the user-facing basic and customizable functionality for DAOs. This includes the ability to name the DAO (through the Ethereum Name Service), managing permissions within the DAO, specifying how governance will work, setting rules for management of digital assets, and more. The framework contracts are the back-end creators and managers of the core contracts, and they are ultimately responsible for the formal creation of DAOs and modification of their features.
How is the ANT token used?
ANT is the Aragon Network’s governance token. Holders of ANT have the right to vote on proposals that guide the development of Aragon. Decisions made through this governance process include ones that fund certain efforts in the Aragon ecosystem.
Since launch, the approximate total supply of ANT has ranged around 40-45 million tokens. Because the inflation (issuance of new coins) and rate of burning (destroying) ANT can vary according to community votes, this is subject to change over time.
- Aragon is a platform that supports the streamlined creation and management of decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs).
- The underlying architecture of Aragon OSx includes two suites of smart contracts that enable the creation of DAOs, management of digital assets, setting of permissions, and design of plug-ins to impart custom functionality where desired.
- Aragon’s ANT token is used to govern its own DAO.