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The MakerDAO network circulates two native tokens: DAI and MKR. DAI is a token that Maker aims to stabilize against the value of the dollar, and MKR is the DAO's native governance token. Dai is a currency token that seeks to maintain price stability against a specific peg, currently the U.S. dollar, to make it suitable for short-term and medium-term use as a unit of account and store of value. Tokens with these characteristics are commonly referred to as stablecoins. While fiat currencies like the dollar offer relatively low volatility, they are controlled by central parties like the Federal Reserve Bank and rely on the health of the local banking system for commercial use. Many users of cryptoassets consider user control and minimal volatility to be the holy grail of not just digital currencies but any currency. The maker project is seeking to reach this goal through the creation of the Dai token. The network consists of two components: Dai, which is a collateral-backed currency token whose value aims to be stable relative to the US Dollar, and Maker, a smart contract platform built on Ethereum that backs and stabilizes the value of Dai. Maker achieves this stability through a dynamic system of collateralized debt positions (CDPs), autonomous feedback mechanisms, and incentivizes for external actors. Maker allows anyone to leverage their Ethereum assets to generate Dai tokens on the Maker Platform. Once generated, Dai can be used in the same manner as any other cryptocurrency; it can be freely sent to others, used as payments for goods and services, or held as long-term savings. The MakerDAO system allows for Dai tokens to be pegged to the price of any asset, as decided by the networks underlying governance.
The MakerDAO system relies on two distinct tokens to create the Dai credit system. The Dai token (DAI) is a free-floating currency that is backed by collateral and pegged, currently, to the U.S. dollar. The Maker token (MKR) is a token that derives its value from the interest payments, called stability fees, which are paid by borrowers that create Dai tokens. MKR also plays the important role as the basis for governance decisions in the network. The Dai credit system acts similar to a decentralized lender, allowing users to lock up collateral in smart contracts and borrow DAI. A user that wishes to transact in DAI would send a specific amount of ETH to a contract which creates a collateralized debt position (CDP). Users can withdraw DAI from the contract at any time and similar to a line of credit, it is not required to withdraw the entire balance immediately. To retrieve collateral users repay the balance of DAI which they withdrew, along with an interest payment, called a stability fee, denominated in MKR. To hedge against a decline in the price of collateral users must overcollateralize these contracts. Currently, the network requires collateral of greater than 150% of the dollar value of the DAI borrowed. If the value of the collateral falls below 150% the CDP could be liquidated. This starts an auction process in which the assets of the CDP are sold in order to pay off the outstanding DAI loan balance, stability fees, and penalty fees. Holders of Maker tokens play two important roles in the MakerDAO system. First, they govern the network by voting on which types of collateral can be used, how much collateral must be posted, and any other changes to the network. Second, they act as a backstop in the case that collateral collapses before CDPs can be auctioned. In this extreme event new MKR tokens are created and sold off in order to stabilize the system. Maker token holders are incentivized to keep the network strong to avoid diluting their holdings. Third party network participants, known as “keepers” help maintain the price of DAI. Keepers are generally automated programs that take advantage of arbitrage opportunities to keep DAI nears its peg. They also participate in CDP auctions ensuring the orderly winddown of liquidated contracts. To allow the Maker platform to run in a decentralized manner a series of oracles are used to provide price data to smart contracts. Oracles provide information directly to contracts which can track the value of collateral, the target rate for DAI, and enforce liquidations for CDPs.
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