A Guide to Kusama (KSM) – Polkadot’s Wild Cousin

Less than two years ago, Polkadot launched Kusama, an experimental blockchain platform where developers could test their latest projects before migrating them to the main architecture.

In the meantime, Kusama has reached such a high level of popularity that many developers choose to keep building their applications on it instead of moving to Polkadot.

Today, we take a closer look at Kusama and the features that made it more popular for some than its parent platform, and whether Polkadot has what it takes to convince developers that grass is greener on the other side.

What is Kusama?

Kusama is a side project of Polkadot, which calls it “it’s wild cousin,” mainly because they share the same codebase.

Like Polkadot aims to support blockchain interoperability, Kusama plans to provide a scalable blockchain platform where developers from different chains can meet and deploy applications.

Kusama’s proverbial wildness is not due to some rowdy mechanism it may have but its purpose of a testing platform for new Polkadot features. Simply put, whenever Polkadot developers come up with a new feature, the first test it on Kusama. If anything goes wrong, Polkadot’s integrity doesn’t have to suffer.

For this reason, Kusama is also known as a “canary network,” which refers to an old miner protection trick. Miners used to take canaries with them when descending into coal mines. The birds would warn the workers ahead of possible carbon monoxide release, and they could get out before dying of CO poisoning.

So, Kusama is the “canary” that lets Polkadot know whether its new features could be deadly for the popular multi-chain platform. However, this canary might come back and bite Polkadot as many projects choose to develop their products and applications on Kusama and not make the step up to the mothership platform.

Even without an audit, Kusama attracts many parachain startups with its low entry requirements for early-stage startups and validators. As a result, Kusama is developing into a relevant blockchain network with internal governance and native token.

How Kusama Works

Kusama is a network of participants where every user can take up one or several roles to support its functioning. The user roles on Kusama include:


They are the developers who build parachains, bridges, and parathreads on the platform.

Network Maintainers

They are the participants in charge of maintaining the platform’s security, stability, and progress. The Network Maintainers are split into four smaller roles:

  • The Nominators, who have to choose validators with a good reputation
  • The Collators, who have to create blocks on the parachains that contain the most recent transactions
  • The Validators, who have to add new blocks to the chain through consensus
  • The Governance Actors, who vote on Kusama protocol and code changes

It is worth noting that the validators receive rewards for their participation through a Proof-of-Stake (PoS) mechanism. The Nominators chose new validators every 24 hours.

Governance on Kusama

On Kusama, participants can use the native token, Kusama (KSM), to make proposals for changes to the protocol or the code. KSM holders can also be part of one of the three government branches on the platform:

The Referendum Chamber

This branch includes all the KSM holders, who can submit and vote on proposals and council members.

The Council

This branch is a group of 13 KSM holders elected by the Referendum Chamber every 24 hours. The members can veto referendum proposals, make other proposals too, and vote on the technical committee members.

The Technical Committee

This branch includes developers voted by the Council to evaluate proposals and decide on their implementation.

The governance process on Kusama goes something like this:

  1. A KSM holder makes a proposal, which lands in a pool of proposals.
  2. KSM holders vote on proposals by staking their KSM tokens.
  3. The proposal that gets the highest stake becomes a referendum.
  4. The Referendum Chamber votes on the top referendum, a process that takes place every eight days.
  5. The referendum then reaches the Council, where members evaluate the proposal in its entirety.
  6. If the referendum does not receive a veto from the Council, it reaches the Technical Committee for evaluation and implementation.

KSM holders can make proposals to change almost every aspect of Kusama, its parameters, registering or de-registering a parachain, funding a project from the treasury, and others.

Kusama uses a unique voting concept, called Adaptive Quorum Biasing. Through this mechanism, the platform ensures that enough people turn up to vote for a proposal by setting a particular threshold that varies from one proposal to another. When the necessary number of votes does not add up, the system adapts by lowering the threshold.

The Kusama Treasury

All the fees and lost deposits end up in the Kusama Treasury. The platform enables KSM holders to use treasury funds for as much as 5% of the tokens they bond to a proposal. This way, Kusama incentivizes the participants to come up with improvements for the network.

Parachains and Parathreads

Kusama hosts several types of blockchains, including parathreads and simple chains.

A parachain is a combination between a simple blockchain and a relay blockchain. The simple chain depends on the protection of the relay one. In turn, the relay chain validates the transactions on the newly created blocks on the simple blockchain.

A relay chain can provide security for as many as 200 blockchains, which it acquires through an auction process.

A parathread is the same combination of blockchains, except that the simple chains ensure the security of parathreads through a registration fee.

What is the Kusama (KSM) token?

In January 2020, Kusama launched a token of the same name through an airdrop to those who participated in the initial Polkadot (DOT) token sale at a rate of 1 KSM for 1 DOT.

Kusama did not set a maximum cap on the production of KSM, which increases at an inflation rate of 10% per year.

At the time of this writing, KSM has a market cap of $ $1,098,327,754, and it is trading for $107.08 per unit. There are more than 8 million tokens in circulation, and KSM has a 24-hour trading volume of $134,420,567.

If you wish to purchase KSM, you can do so at several popular crypto exchanges, such as Binance, OKEx, and Huobi.

The Bottom Line – A Guide to Kusama

Kusama is a newcomer in the blockchain industry, and it already shows plenty of potentials. Benefitting from Polkadot’s endorsement, this platform has the allure to attract innovative developers and grow even more.

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The only thing that could block Kusama’s rise to industry-spread popularity is its less-than-wild cousin, Polkadot. Lest we forget, Polkadot launched Kusama with the sole purpose of testing its potential future features. However, as Kusama keeps new projects and developers for itself, we may see Polkadot slowing down its progress.

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