Kusama is an experimental network launched on August 23rd, 2019. This is an unaudited trial network designed to be used as a sandbox for developers of another project, Polkadot. Kusama is aimed to support Polkadot being its experimental version.
Polkadot aims to connect different blockchain networks with the final goal to create something like a framework giving an opportunity to make transactions between chains safely. This is the primary network while Kusama is a testing ground for those investigators who want to have a try in real-world conditions before implementing new technologies and features to Polkadot.
Kusama is often positioned as Polkadot’s “canary network.” This is an allusion to the idiom “canary in a coal mine” meaning something that warns of possible danger as Kusama was designed to identify all the crucial negative factors before launch and deployment to Polkadot. In fact, Kusama plays a key role in making Polkadot secure, safe, and stable.
Though both networks are technologically identical, they are not the total analogs. These are self-sufficient, standalone networks and their priorities differ. Polkadot embodies stability and security while Kusama prioritizes speed, experimentation, and affordability.
Technically, Kusama is not a testnet as it functions in the real active environment and its native coin has its own value. It is more a shadow network or twin network, and its owners state that it will exist while its users maintain it. They also state that it is highly possible for Kusama to be bridged to Polkadot to achieve cross-network interoperability in the future.
Just like with Polkadot, the principal elements of Kusama’s infrastructure are the Relay Chain, the Parachains, and the Bridges. The Relay Chain performs as the main chain of the system that provides all the interchain operations and is responsible for the security of the process.
A Parachain is an independent parallel blockchain connected to the Relay Chain. It has its own structure, logic, currency, its own interactions with third parties. Each Parachain is maintained by its validators. A Parathread is a particular case of a Parachain that is different in the method of payment for registration.
A Bridge is a special parachain that is designed to connect a Kusama network to outside services and blockchains. No third-party services are not required.
There are three ways to take part in Kusama’s development. You can do this as a builder, maintainer, or an end-user. Builders create parachains and bridges while maintainers keep the system in working order. There are four main types of maintainers: validators, nominators, collators, and governance participants.
Validators that run the nodes are responsible for maintaining the network and relay chain block production and finalization. Anyone can become a validator having a required amount of KSM and meeting the minimum requirements for technical equipment.
Nominations are the nodes that participate in the staking system. They select reputable validators and stake KSM increasing the general security of the entire network.
The collators’ duty is to maintain complete parachains.
Governance participants determine the direction of network development. There are three types of governance participants: referendum chamber, council, and technical committee. The referendum chamber comprises all KSM holders. Council represents passive stakeholders. At the time of writing, it consists of 17 members though it is expected that finally there will be 19 of them. They are responsible for the election of the technical committee. Their duty is to decide if the proposal is urgent and needs to be implemented rapidly.
The Peculiarities of Kusama Governance
Any changes to the network can be made via a referendum that can be proposed by all the KSM holders. To do that, they need to deposit the minimum token amount. If other participants support this proposal, they put up the same token amount.
The proposal supported with the largest amount of deposits will be put to a referendum where any stakeholder can vote for or against it. The choice is always binary, the voters can say only “yes” or “no.” Voting lasts for 28 days. If the proposal gets approved, the changes enter into force 30 days later. Another way to start a referendum is to submit a proposal by the majority of the council.
KSM is the project’s native utility token of the network. Its genesis date is November 28, 2019, but no additional information on the launch, ICO, distribution, or maximum supply is available.
According to the project announcements, the tokens can be received in four ways. If you are a DOT holder, you have a right to claim an equivalent amount of KSM as DOT is a native token of Polkadot. You can also get KSM through a faucet. Grants from Web3 Foundation and the bug bounty program are two other ways to obtain this token.
KSM is traded on some exchanges (Bit-Z, CoinBene, BiKi, Huobi Global, etc.). It cannot be directly bought for fiat, so you need to buy one of the major cryptocurrencies first to be able to purchase KSM.
This coin is used to maintain the basic project’s functions: participating in governance, supporting new parachains, staking, and paying fees for the messages transmitted across parachains.
Kusama on Mars
In August 2020, Kusama announced an ambitious plan dubbed “Kusama on Mars” in cooperation with Robonomics, a member of the Polkadot network. They aim to transmit blockchain transactions from Mars. They insist that Kusama’s infrastructure allows implementing this plan.
Team and Users
Kusama was launched by Web3 Foundation, a Swiss company headquartered in Zug. Some other companies like Parity Technologies are also involved in network development. There is no information on the project’s team on the official website, but it can be found in social media like LinkedIn.
Gavin Wood is the President and Founder of the Web3 Foundation. He is a prominent personality in the world of blockchain as a founder of a number of meaningful blockchain projects: Ethereum, Polkadot, Parity Technologies, etc. Before starting the blockchain projects he worked at Microsoft. Christine Mohan is the CMO at Web3 Foundation. She is also a co-founder of Blue Firefly Inc.