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Installing Plugins

The Smart Contracts Behind Plugins

A DAO can be set up and customized by the installation, update, and uninstallation of plugins. Plugins are composed of two key contracts:

  • Plugin contract: contains the plugin's implementation logic; everything needed to extend the functionality for DAOs.
  • Plugin Setup contract: contains the instructions needed to install, update, and uninstall the plugin into the DAO. This is done through granting or revoking permissions, enabling plugins to perform actions within the scope of the DAO.

Aragon OSx Plugins

How this works:

  • Although a Plugin is composed by the Plugin and PluginSetup contracts, the Aragon OSx protocol only knows of the PluginSetup contract.
  • Since the PluginSetup contract is the one containing the plugin installation instructions, it is the one in charge of deploying the Plugin instance. Each plugin instance is specific to that DAO, deployed with its own unique parameters. You can review how to build a PluginSetup contract here.
  • The PluginSetup contract then interacts with the Aragon OSx framework's PluginSetupProcessor contract, which is in charge of applying the installion, update, or uninstallation of a plugin into a DAO.
  • Publishing a Plugin into the Aragon OSx protocol is done through creating the first version of the plugin's PluginRepo. The plugin's PluginRepo instance stores all plugin versions. You can read more about that here.
  • Except for the gas costs required, plugins are completely free to install, unless decided otherwise by the developer.

How are Plugins installed in DAOs?

The PluginSetup processing is security critical because the permissions it handles are granted to third-party contracts.

Safety is our top priority in the design of the whole protocol. We want to make sure that the DAO members know exactly what permissions are granted to whom before any processing takes place.

This is why we see the installation process in two phases:

  1. Preparation: Defining the parameters to be set on the new plugin instance and helpers, as well as requesting the permissions needed for it to work properly. The PluginSetup contains the setup script where developers can perform any unprivileged operations. These will need a privileged confirmation in the next step.
  2. Application: The granting or revoking of the plugin's requested permissions (based on the preparation step above). This is a privileged action performed by Aragon's PluginSetupProcessor (you can understand it as the "installer"), so that the plugin becomes effectively installed or uninstalled. It gets executed whenever someone with ROOT privileges on the DAO applies it (most likely through a proposal).

The PluginSetupProcessor is the Aragon contract in charge of invoking the prepareInstallation() function from your plugin's PluginSetup contract and use it to prepare the installation and (eventually) apply it once it has been approved by the DAO.

What happens during the Plugin Preparation?

The preparation of a PluginSetup contract proceeds as follows:

  1. A DAO builder selects a plugin to install, uninstall, or update.

  2. The DAO builder defines the parameters and settings that he/she wants for their DAO. Depending on the case, the prepareInstallation, prepareUpdate, or prepareUninstallation method in the PluginSetup contract is called through the PluginSetupProcessor (and creates a unique setup ID).

  3. The PluginSetup contract deploys all the contracts and gathers addresses and other input arguments required for the installation/uninstallation/upgrade instructions. This can include:

    • deployment of new contracts
    • initialization of new storage variables
    • deprecating/decomissioning outdated (helper) contracts
    • governance settings or other attributes
    • ...

    Because the addresses of all associated contracts are now known, a static permission list can be emitted, hashed, and stored on-chain.

  4. Once the Plugin installation has been prepared, we use it as the parameter of the applyInstallation() action. Once encoded, this action is what must be added to the Action[] array of the installation proposal. That way, when the proposal passes, the action becomes executable and the plugin can be installed in the DAO using the parameters defined in the prepare installation process. For a plugin to be installed, it needs to be approved by the governance mechanism (plugin) of the organization, passed as the encoded action of a proposal, and executed by a signer.


The governance plugin can be a simple majority vote, an optimistic process or an admin governance plugin that does not involve a waiting period. It can be any governance mechanism existing within the DAO which has access to the DAO's execute permission.

This gives the DAO members the opportunity to check which permissions the PluginSetup contract request before granting/revoking them.

Plugin setup proposals must be carefully examined as they can be a potential security risk if the PluginSetup contract comes from an untrusted source. To learn more visit the Security section.

What happens during the Preparation Application?

After this initial preparation transaction, the addresses and permissions related to the plugin become apparent. The members of a governance plugin with permissions can decide if the installation proposal should be accepted or denied.

Once the proposal has passed, the actions specified in the Action[] array can get executed and the applyInstallation() action is used to complete the installation of the plugin into the DAO.

This is processed as follows:

  1. The DAO temporarily grants the ROOT_PERMISSION_ID permission to the PluginSetupProcessor. This is needed so that the processor can modify the DAO's permissions settings to set up the plugin.
  2. This Action calls the applyInstallation, applyUpdate, or applyUninstallation method in the PluginSetupProcessor, containing the list of requested permissions as argument. The permissions hash is compared with the stored hash to make sure that no permission was changed. In addition to the above, the update process also upgrades the logic contract to which the proxy points too.
  3. If the hash is valid, the list is processed and PluginSetupProcessor conducts the requested sequence of grant, grantWithCondition and revoke calls on the owning DAO. Finally, the PluginSetupProcessor asks the DAO to revoke the ROOT_PERMISSION_ID permission from itself.

The two-step setup procedure in Aragon OSx is not limited to the setup of only one plugin — you can setup multiple plugins at once by first preparing them in a single proposal and then processing the entire setup sequence in one transaction. This is powerful and allows you to transform your entire DAO in one proposal, for example, to install a new governance plugin (e.g., a gasless ZK-vote) and finance plugin (e.g., to stream loans to your members), while uninstalling your old ERC20 token vote in one go.

In the next sections, you will learn about how plugins are curated on Aragon's repository.

a. Schematic depiction of the plugin installation process. b. Schematic depiction of the plugin update process. c. Schematic depiction of the plugin uninstallation process.

Simplified overview of the two-transaction plugin a. installation, b. update, and c. uninstallation process with the involved contracts as rounded rectangles, interactions between them as arrows, and relations as dashed lines. The first and second transaction are distinguished by numbering as well as solid and dotted lines, respectively.

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