In brief

  • Contributors to the Yearn Finance DeFi protocol have released a document explaining how Yearn doesn’t fit into traditional ideas about ownership and control.
  • The “manifesto” stipulates that Yearn has no investors, only community members, and no centralized company or foundation at the reins.
  • Andre Cronje, the original Yearn developer, apparently had no part in developing the manifesto.

Contributors to Yearn Finance, one of the earliest and most radical experiments in decentralized governance, today released a manifesto outlining the unique nature of the DeFi protocol.

“How we think about Yearn” establishes ideals for what the protocol is—and isn’t. Though it’s slim, the document adds weight to Yearn’s decentralized bonafides. It’s not officially a manifesto—that name came from commenters and a few administrators endorsing the post on Yearn’s governance page—and the document makes clear why.


“Yearn does not have an official voice,” it states. “There’s no legal entity, there’s no foundation, no copyright, no patent, no central authority to stamp announcements with official seals from some great leader.”

The document, was posted to the Yearn governance coordination page by Yearn contributor Daniel Lehnberg and signed by a handful of Yearn contributors, including two of the five website administrators—milkyklim and banteg.

The Yearn manifesto emphasizes that the project has no investors, only community members, and that no one actor represents it. That assertion is driven home by the fact that Andre Cronje, developer of much of the original Yearn codebase and the most visible contributor to the project, has not signaled any involvement with the release of the manifesto. (Cronje has not yet responded to a Decrypt request for comment.)

Cronje has never claimed to have any official role in relation to Yearn (although he is listed as an admin on the website), but the release of the manifesto without him on board, while still receiving a positive reception from the community, adds credibility to claims that the protocol truly belongs to contributors.

Yearn Finance is a yield optimization protocol built to help investors generate the greatest possible return from programmatic investment in different DeFi protocols. DeFi, or decentralized finance, is a collection of blockchain-based projects that use automated code (smart contracts) to offer financial services like loans and interest-earning deposits without the need for traditional banks.


Yearn Finance launched its YFI governance token on July 17 in a distribution with no pre-sale or allocation for developers; anyone could deposit funds in Yearn products at the time and be rewarded with YFI tokens, in addition to interest generated from normal protocol activities.

Governance tokens are used by DeFi protocols to collectively decide the future of a given project, voting on issues like software development or integrations and partnerships with other applications.

The manifesto has something to say about that too. "Yearn is governed by YFI, but YFI does not govern Yearn’s contributors," it explains. "Holding YFI entitles you to signal for real, practical change that improves Yearn. It doesn’t give you the right to tell other contributors what to do. You want something done? Do it."

It appears as though Yearn contributors take that advice to heart.

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