MolochDAO: a primitive solution

James Duncan
May 11 · 5 min read

3 years after the hack of the original DAO, Moloch beckons for experimentation.

Moloch, the canine God of child sacrifice.

Simplicity Sets Moloch Apart

Moloch is a grant giving DAO that has ignited fire in the Ethereum ecosystem. The design encompasses a minimum viable engine for DAO processing. While other protocols (DAOStack, Aragon…) hold more flexibility and features, Moloch differentiates itself through a limited feature approach (ie. it holds funds securely, decides on proposals consistently, and aligns group incentives).

Moloch’s summoner, Ameen Solemani, built the concept from the carcass of The DAO using a minimum viable approach. The primary “minimum viable” aspect really revolved around reducing the massive 1400+ lines of code to a much simpler (thus safer) ~300 lines of code.

The simplicity of the architecture, allows for natural guidelines to fluidly emerge via social consensus.

For instance, the founding DAO memberships agreed on 100 ETH as the appropriate tribute to generate a sizable grant fund. This understanding was implicit in the proposal process. Since then, there have been proposals that passed with only 10 ETH, signaling an expansion in the former precedent.

The lack of quorum keeps the proposal process unblocked and bypasses the question around incentivizing participation to ensure efficiency.

Everyone has the chance to participate. Those who abstain essentially signal their approval for others in the group to make the right decision. This creates a natural holacracy. By abstaining, members increase the voting power of those who participate in a particular vote.


Today Moloch stands with more than $300K in ETH to support Serenity develop ment and in the first month it successfully allocated $3K to commission a comprehensive report by Matthew Slipper of Kyokan to synthesize knowledge from each development team to appreciate the never-ending question of “where are we?”.

On Friday an announcement came through that Joe Lubin and Vitalik Buterin (along with Consensys and the Ethereum Foundation) will each put in 1000 ETH by electing 10 individuals to the Moloch DAO. If these new proposals are passed, the fund will reach $1M.

Moloch is the second largest DAO by volume to date and has yet to be hacked (the original DAO only lasted 2 weeks before being attacked). Considering these metrics, Moloch has clearly been revolutionary in advancing DAO experimentation.

How does the beast work tho?


Moloch Architecture

Fully spec’d schematic describing flow of proposals, tribute, and shares in relation to incumbent members and GuildBank. Detailed zoom on the processes below.

The Players

First thing to understand, who makes up the Moloch DAO? How do they form relation?

The DAO revolves around an application process. There are two primary application types: 1) members who join the guild, and 2) projects that receive funding. That said, other applications may emerge as the DAO continues. Non-exhaustive list below.

Applicant Types (as displayed in figures)

Applicants to the Moloch DAO vary by a number of types. The types are defined by two things: 1) the amount of ETH offered as tribute, and 2) the amount of voting shares requested.

  • Membership — equitable shares requested for tribute offered.
  • Projects — only shares requested (likely to burn for cash, but could keep to vote on proposals).
  • Grants — only tribute offered, no grant ask.
  • Overask Member — someone who may bring both tribute and resources (expertise, hard skills, etc…) and asks for a share higher than tribute value.
  • Oversell Member — someone who gives higher tribute value than share value (maybe to apease the membership).
  • Aborted — applications that are aborted by the applicants leave behind aborted contracts that still move through the pipes of the DAO.

The Process

The process is simple and flexible. I walk through the schematic in 6 steps below.

To Note: Applications enter and are stacked in a 4.8 hr interval. Max 5 applications per day.

Steps 1–5: From application to rejection

  1. Proposal process initiated by a 10 ETH submission deposit by an incumbent member. This deposit serves as a quality assurance for proposals (social capital also implicitly staked).
  2. The application moves through a week long voting period (first 48 hrs allows for applicants to abort).
  3. A week long grace period follows (in this period, members unhappy with voting results can RAGEQUIT). Both the Grace Period and RAGEQUIT functions were suggested to strengthen the original DAO.
  4. Processing (incentivized by 0.1 ETH taken from initial deposit) occurs for approved members through a call initiated by a button in Moloch’s UI.
  5. Deposit is returned to members after application is processed (-0.1 ETH for successful applicants).
To Note: Incumbent Z represents a member who decided to RAGEQUIT due to discontent with voting result (purple line burns shares, grey line delivers value burned).

Step 6: Collection of tribute and distribution of shares

6. Proposals submit their tribute (if applicable) and collect shares (if applicable). Project type proposals might immediately RAGEQUIT to liquidate shares.

Key Features

  • RAGEQUIT — the exit for members of the DAO. They are all allowed to RAGEQUIT at any time. This was a critical feature found as needed post OG DAO fiasco.
  • Guildbank — the bank holding Moloch’s value.
  • Shares — percentage of the total pool, both representing value one could take from the DAO, or voting power one can excercise within the DAO.
  • Tribute — the offering (ETH) for new Moloch members.

That’s it

That’s all it is. Moloch is really really simple. In a similar way, it will need to evolve to do things like invest in projects and share revenue, build a process pipeline for bounties, RFPs, etc… and in order to do these things, thinking about the correct legal structure to support adds to the complexity.

The beauty of Moloch is similar to that of the EVM. It is rudimentary, but the system works.

A later post will explore a potential evolution of the Moloch DAO. For more detail, check the Moloch repo.

Edited: RAGEQUIT not available to members who voted Y in approval process. 0.1 ETH processing fee paid from submission deposit.

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James Duncan

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Focused on ecosystem development and sustainable resource management. Earth Science. Ethereum Foundation. Abridged.

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