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What is Kusama? (KSM)

The Beginner’s Guide


Kusama is a public pre-production environment for Polkadot, one that allows any developer to experiment and test new blockchains or applications before releasing them on this network.

In this way, it can be said Kusama acts as a kind of sandbox for developers looking to test early versions of Polkadot projects, but with real cryptocurrency traded on an open market. 

Official Polkadot upgrades are also tested on Kusama before their release.

Because its primary use case is to facilitate testing, Kusama attempts to give developers more flexibility while they finalize the design of their Polkadot projects. In turn, Kusama offers looser rules than Polkadot, including less stringent governance parameters.

Elsewhere, Kusama mimics most of Polkadot’s major design features. For example, Kusama uses two types of blockchains – a main network, called a relay chain, where transactions are permanent, and user-generated networks, called parachains. 

Parachains can be customized for any use and leverage the main relay chain for security. 

A potential advantage of starting a project on Kusama is that it allows Polkadot projects to build a user base and gain traction in the community before the official launch.

Users seeking to stay connected on the project’s current development status can follow the official Kusama project blog for up-to-date details.


Who Created Kusama?

Kusama was founded in 2016 by the creators of Polkadot, Gavin Wood (a co-founder of Ethereum), Peter Czaban and Robert Habermeier. 

Wood’s background is notable as he invented Solidity, the language used by developers to write decentralized applications (dapps) on Ethereum. He was also the Ethereum Foundation’s first CTO, and was previously a research scientist at Microsoft.  

Wood founded a company called Parity Technologies in 2015 that maintains Substrate, a software development framework used by Kusama developers who wish to create parachains. 

Wood is also the president of the Web3 Foundation, the non-profit that conducted Polkadot’s token sales, raising roughly $200 million from investors in the process. 

How Does Kusama Work?


The Kusama network allows for the creation of two types of blockchains. 

  • The Relay Chain – The main Kusama blockchain, this network is where transactions are finalized. To achieve a greater speed, the relay chain separates the addition of new transactions from the act of validating those transactions. 
  • Parachains – Parachains are custom blockchains that use the relay chain’s computing resources to confirm that transactions are accurate. 

The Relay Chain

To keep its network in agreement about the state of the system, the Kusama Relay Chain uses a variation on proof-of-stake (PoS) consensus called nominated proof-of-stake (NPoS).

This system allows anyone who stakes KSM by locking the cryptocurrency in a special contract to perform one or more of the following roles necessary to its operation:  

  • Validators – Validate data in parachain blocks. They also participate in consensus and vote on proposed changes to the network.
  • Nominators – Secure the Relay Chain by selecting trustworthy validators. Nominators delegate their staked KSM tokens to validators and thus allocate their votes to them.

 

Users who stake KSM and perform these roles are also eligible to receive KSM rewards.

Kusama Governance 

Three types of Kusama users can influence the software’s development. 

These include:

  • The Referendum Chamber – Anyone who purchases KSM tokens can propose changes to the network and approve or reject major changes proposed by others. 
  • The Council – Elected by KSM holders, council members are responsible for proposing changes and determining which changes proposed by KSM holders are made to the software. The Council on Kusama started with seven seats, but is intended to increase as community interest grows
  • The Technical Committee – Composed of teams actively building Kusama, this group can make special proposals in the event of an emergency. Members of the technical committee are voted in by Council members.

The Difference Between Kusama and Polkadot

Kusama is branded as a “canary network” for the Polkadot blockchain, meaning that it provides early code release that is unaudited and available before it is launched on Polkadot. 

The first key difference between the two networks is the speed of the governance system. In Kusama, it takes seven days to vote on a referendum and eight days to implement changes after the votes, compared to a month for each on Polkadot.

Second, becoming a validator on Kusama is much easier, as the minimum staking requirements are lower than in Polkadot.

It is important to keep in mind that Kusama is a blockchain for experimentation, and that it gives up stability and security to increase the speed of the network.
 


Why Does KSM Have Value?

The KSM cryptocurrency plays a key role in maintaining and operating the Kusama network.

By owning and staking KSM, users gain the ability to vote on network upgrades, with each vote being proportional to the amount of KSM cryptocurrency they stake. 

Kusama rewards these users with newly minted KSM based on how many tokens they are staking, with validators and nominators receiving rewards.

Of note for investors, however, is that there is no capped supply of KSM. Rather, new KSM tokens are expected to be released in perpetuity, at a predetermined inflation rate.
 


Why Should I Use KSM?

Users may find Kusama appealing based on the pre-production capabilities it offers for the Polkadot network and its focus on facilitating interoperability between the two blockchains. 

Projects can also maintain parachains on both Kusama and Polkadot, using their Kusama parachain to experiment and test new features before upgrading their Polkadot parachain 

Several projects have deployed parachains on both networks, including Gitcoin, a platform providing paid opportunities to developers by linking them to open-source projects, and 0x, a platform for decentralized exchanges. 

Investors may want to add KSM to their portfolio should they believe in the future of the Polkadot ecosystem and blockchains that serve as a foundation for applications. 
 

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