In a groundbreaking move for Web3, the Ethereum Name Service (ENS) has taken another vastly significant step towards true decentralization, by proposing-and-executing the Transfer of ENS Protocol’s “Root-Key Ownership & Administrative Power”, from the current/former “3-of-7 Multi-sig” keyholder system, to the ENS DAO’s “decentralized smart contracts and governance” control.
The transformative shift of ENS EP 4.10 is a testament to the ENS community’s commitment to open governance and represents a significant milestone in the evolution of the ENS Protocol.
In this comprehensive testament, we dive into the details of the proposal process, its background and execution, the powers and responsibilities it entails, and the potential implications for the future of Web3 and internet governance. Whether you’re new to ENS or a seasoned expert, let’s begin a thorough understanding of this crucial development in the history of ENS and Web3.
Background: ENS Root Key Ownership
The ENS root node’s current ownership resides with a multisig contract comprised of respected individuals within the Ethereum community. These keyholders, with the exception of Nick Johnson, the founder of ENS, are not affiliated with ENS.
While the .eth registrar contract and the ENS DAO treasury contracts are locked and protected from the root keyholders’ influence upon launch of the ENS DAO, the root keyholders’ had still held considerable power over the ENS Protocol.
ENS DAO’s Current/Former Powers
Before the change, the ENS DAO only held ownership of the .eth registrar and has control over functionalities like the NameWrapper. However, it had lacked control over the core ENS root name, which retained the ability to create new top-level domains (TLDs), modify existing ones, and upgrade relevant contracts.
The Proposal: Transfer of Root Key Ownership
The central proposal at hand was the transfer of ownership of the ENS root key from the current multisig holders to the ENS DAO. This strategic move aims to consolidate governance powers, and aligning with the vision of decentralized control over the ENS Protocol via the smart contracts and ethos of the ENS DAO.
- TLD Management: While the “.eth” TLD is permanently fixed, the DAO will inherit the power to create and manage other top-level domains. The DAO will also have the authority to permanently lock any TLD if deemed necessary.
- Reverse Resolutions & L2s: The DAO will gain the capacity to update reverse resolutions. Additionally, with support from the ENS Labs team, the ENS DAO will explore and potentially implement primary domain names via Layer 2 solutions (L2s).
- Specification: Current ENS root keyholders are requested to execute a transaction transferring root key ownership to the ENS DAO’s designated contract. The ENS DAO commits to managing the new powers and funds in line with the ENS DAO Constitution, ensuring transparent governance and decision-making. The DAO will develop policies to govern TLD management, pricing updates, and other critical decisions.
Truly the end of an era. Here's the message I just sent to the ENS root keyholders, requesting the transfer of the last of their powers to the DAO.
— nick.eth (@nicksdjohnson) December 15, 2023
Decentralization: A Paradigm Shift in Internet Governance
The transfer of the ENS “root-key ownership”, to the ENS DAO, represents a paradigm shift in internet governance. Here’s why decentralization matters:
- Promoting Pluralism and Diversity: Decentralization fosters pluralism and diversity in decision-making, creating more robust ecosystems. It aligns with Ethereum’s core values, preventing control by any single entity and redistributing opportunities and responsibilities among users.
- Open-Source Innovation: Decentralized governance, which promotes and maintain sovereign Web3, like that of the ENS DAO and ENS DAO Constitution, is based on the principles of “credible neutrality”, enabling open-source innovation without the risk of capture by a single agency.
- Streamlined Decision-Making: Centralized control of the ENS root key can hinder innovation, with domain owners needing permission-based processes to enact changes. Decentralization streamlines decision-making through executable votes, expediting innovation cycles.
NEW ERAS OF INTERNET GOVERNANCE.
Recently, I drafted my first-ever on-chain proposal, which transfers ENS root key administrative powers to the @ENS_DAO. What powers will the DAO inherit and how will they be managed? Read this article to find out.https://t.co/XnG1aJiWFV
— marcus (@estmcmxci) December 11, 2023
Powers & Responsibilities of the ENS DAO
Under the proposed transition, the ENS DAO will inherit various powers and responsibilities, including:
- Modifying the ENS Registry: Adding new top-level domains (TLDs) based on community consensus and keyholders’ judgment.
- Emergency Response: Acting swiftly to limit or reverse damage during emergencies, such as critical vulnerabilities.
- Upholding ENS DAO Constitution: Ensuring transparent governance and responsible management of new powers and funds.
- Controller Management: Managing controllers for the .eth registrar, affecting registration and renewal policies.
- Pricing Updates: Modifying pricing for .eth names as necessary.
An interesting aspect of having those maps is that it helps visualize stuff that we missed. For example I just realized that the Multisig is still the owner of the oracle of the s registrar contract. Probably doesn't matter but it would be good to remove that as well. pic.twitter.com/1I9lGDr1rx
— Alex Van de Sande (avsa.eth) (@avsa) December 12, 2023
Governance Flow within the ENS DAO
The ENS DAO has established robust governance mechanisms to manage its responsibilities. The governance flow includes:
- Commencement: Discussions begin in the ENS DAO Governance Forum, where free agents collectively identify needs and propose solutions.
- Oversight: Working Group stewards are elected to carry out the DAO’s mandate, and in this case, oversee the administration of the root key.
- Consensus: Weekly meetings serve as forums to address community needs and solutions, leading to preliminary proposals known as ‘temp-checks.’
- Executable Proposal: Preliminary proposals are discussed, refined, and evolved into formal proposals. These proposals enter the DAO’s decision-making environment, open to community discussion and refinement.
- Ratification: Delegates vote using $ENS tokens, with voting power determined by token holdings. If a proposal gains sufficient support, it is ratified and implemented, affecting changes such as the administration of the root key.
Hypothetical Scenario: Assigning Ownership of a Subnode
To illustrate the practical implications of the transition, let’s consider a hypothetical scenario involving a DNS TLD owner, “.ape”, seeking control over their ENS Node:
Under the current centralized system, “.ape” would need to navigate a complex permission-based process, involving multiple keyholders’ approval, potentially leading to delays and frustration.
In the decentralized model under the ENS DAO, “.ape” would have agency to enact change, guided by Working Group stewards and the broader community. The process would be more accessible, participatory, and transparent.
ENS DAO: A Blueprint for Decentralized Internet Governance
In conclusion, ENS EP 4.10 represents a significant step towards a decentralized, community-governed future for internet governance. By transferring control of the ENS root key to the ENS DAO, the ENS community is promoting trust, transparency, and innovation. This transition showcases a model where power and responsibility are distributed among users, aligning with Ethereum’s core principles and paving the way for a new era of internet governance.
As we witness this monumental shift, the ENS DAO’s approach could serve as a blueprint for other decentralized protocols, empowering users and ensuring that the collective will shapes the future of the internet.
I recommend you join the discussion via the ENS DAO Governance Forum; and stay tuned for all future developments! The ENS community is charting a course towards a more decentralized and inclusive internet, and your participation is vital.
It's done! Control over the ENS root has now officially been transferred to the DAO.
— nick.eth (@nicksdjohnson) December 19, 2023