What is Kusama?
Kusama is a permissionless network enabling developers to experiment and test decentralized applications and blockchains before deploying them on Polkadot. It is a kind of a sandbox version of Polkadot that helps developers understand the issues with their applications beforehand. Polkadot, themselves, test all upgrades on Kusama before releasing them on mainnet. The native token of Kusama is KUSAMA, and in short, it is called KSM.
As Kusama is meant for experimentation purposes, the rules around governance within the Kusama network are relaxed. It helps the developers design and helps them recalibrate their projects better before launching them on Polkadot. Talking about similarities between Kusama and Polkadot, they both have similar design features. For example, both networks use a relay chain, which is the main network of both blockchains, and parachains, which are user-generated networks. In relay chains, the transactions are permanent. As for parachains, the developer can customize them as per their needs. It is to be noted Parachains depend on the relay chains for security.
So, what are the other advantages for projects to launch on Kusama before they make a final launch on Polkadot? Well, there are a couple! First, by launching on Kusama, the project can gain traction. Once they start gaining recognition, they will also begin building a user base. Both of these factors will help them make their final launch on Polkadot a success.
History of Kusama
Founded in 2016, Kusama is the brainchild of Gavin Wood, Robert Habermeier, and Peter Czaban, the co-founders of Polkadot. It is also interesting that Gavin Wood is also one of the co-founders of Ethereum.
Based in Switzerland, Gavin Wood has a Masters of Engineering in Computer Sciences/Software Engineering from the University of York. He also has a Doctorate of Philosophy in Music Visualization for Human-Computer Interfacing. He began his career with InTechnology PLC as a Programmer. Then, he joined Microsoft Research Cambridge as a Research & Software Consultant.
Wood co-founded Ethereum Foundation along with Vitalik Buterin and others in 2013. Currently, he is the co-founder of Grid Singularity, which he began in October 2015, President & Founder of Web3 Foundation, and Founder of Parity Technologies.
Robert Habermeier is based in Berlin. He is the Lead Developer of Parity Technologies, Co-founder of Polkadot Network, and Co-founder/Managing Director of Hypersphere Ventures.
Peter Czaban, the third Co-founder of Polygon Network, has a Master’s Degree in Engineering Science from the University of Oxford. He began his career as a Developer at Purse, a peer-to-peer Bitcoin marketplace. He is currently working with Polkadot Network as a Co-founder, Board Member & Founder of the Open Reviews Association, and Founder/Director of PlatingSpace.
Now, let’s know the timeline of Kusama so far. As we said in the beginning, KSM tokens are the native token of the Kusama Network. The DOT token holders claimed KSM tokens in July 2018 through Ethereum transactions. Once the transaction went through successfully, the DOT token holders got a place in the genesis block of Kusama.
But Kusama soon changed the process of claiming KSM tokens as they adopted the proof of authority model after one and half months. Thus, the only validators to receive KSM tokens were the ones that were allowed by parity and the web 3 foundation to generate blocks. At that time, validators had only one function – Indicate their intention to validate. It was a time of chaos, but it did not last long as Kusama made a move to POS within a couple of months.
As per an article published by Polkadot Network in February 2021, there were 700 validators on Kusama Network. It is a considerable increase compared to the number of validators in December 2019, when there were 130 validators in Kusama Network. Polkadot expects that the number of validators in Kusama Network will soon touch 900.
What Problem Does Kusama Solve?
Kusama calls itself the canary network of Polkadot. So, what is a canary? It is a type of bird that coal miners used to check if it was safe to enter the coal mines. Kusama works quite similarly for Polkadot. As we know that Polkadot is becoming quite popular among blockchain developers, so Kusama is a perfect option for them to test their applications before launching them on Polkadot. Now, let’s discuss what one can do on Kusama Network:
#1. Check governance functionality
With the Kusama network, any new projects can test their governance system and check if the technicalities involved works as per expectations. Once the project launches on Kusama Network, its community members also can vote on proposals in line with how democracy works.
#2. Test Validator Set-up
The second thing that a new project or decentralized application can do on Kusama Network is to check if the validator set-up of their network works perfectly or not. If developers feel that something is lacking in the way the validator set-up works, then they can make changes accordingly. Making changes will help hone the validator setup and make it better.
The barriers for staking on the Kusama network are lower than that of Polkadot. Hence, Kusama Network is very much suitable for testing staking mechanisms before deploying the full-scale project on Polkadot. Another benefit in testing validator set-up on Kusama Network is its program called Thousand Validators. Using this program, the community validators can rise the ranks within the network.
#3. Test how Parachains Interacts With Their Project
As we said in the beginning, the Kusama blockchain has two similar components like Polkadot, which are Relay Chain and Parachains. Thus, developers testing out their project on Kusama Network will be able to test out the parachains even before they launch their project on Polkadot. It also includes features like parachain slot auction and composable applications.
#4. Be a Part of Fast Moving Ecosystem
As a platform that offers developers to test out projects and make improvements on the go, Kusama Network is attracting many developers to its ecosystem. With more & more developers testing their projects on Kusama, the platform is improving day-in-day-out. Thus, if you are testing out your project on Kusama Network, you, too, are becoming a part of something revolutionary.
#5. Become a Part of Kappa Sigma Mu, a Cyber Secret Society of Kusama Network
If you opt to test your project on Kusama Network, you automatically get a chance to become a part of Kusama Fraternity, known as Kappa Sigma Mu.
Roles Within Kusama Network
There are three core roles within Kusama Network, which we will explore in detail below:
The first role is that of a builder. As the name depicts, builders are those who built. In Kusama’s context, it refers to the developers and their teams. After all, they built decentralized applications on Kusama. Their experience would be similar to what they would have while building applications on Polkadot Network. After all, Kusama is a kind of parallel network of Polkadot and has a similar codebase.
The developers and their teams build bridges with other networks, parachains, block explorers, or parathreads. It is also to be noted that deployment of parachains on Kusama is comparatively cheaper than on Polkadot. Thus, new projects with early-stage parachains that are yet to launch in full-scale may find it a financially attractive proposition to build and test their applications on Kusama Network first.
#2. Network Maintainers
Both in Polkadot Network & Kusama Network, few actors play a crucial role in keeping the network running. It includes nominators, collators, validators, and governance actors.
The first role in line is Nominators, as they are the ones who select the validators. In addition to selecting validators, they also stake their KSM tokens. Next comes collators. They are responsible for collecting all the parachain transaction proof from the users of Kusama Network, which they can use to create state transition proofs & present to the validators.
Validators play a very crucial role, keeping the network running. They add new blocks of transactions and are also responsible for consensus with peer validators. In return for performing their duties as a validator, they receive rewards from the network. But, at the same time, there is also a risk of their staked tokens getting slashed.
#3. Governance Actors
Now comes the governance actors, which are a very crucial role within the Kusama Network. The participants voting on governance initiatives will decide how and where does Kusama go from here. Anyone who wants to propose a change must submit KSM tokens, and if a majority of KSM token holders vote in favor of it, the changes will be implemented in the Kusama code base. There are three main subcategories within the governance aspect of Kusama, which are Referendum Chamber, Council, and Technical Committee.
a. Referendum Chamber
The first subcategory, Referendum Chamber, consists of KSM token holders who propose changes, vote on the proposals, apply to become a Council member and vote in favor or against Council nominations.
b. The Council
Next comes the Council, which is the second main subcategory of governance actors in Kusama Network. Through the voting process, 13 members are selected to become a part of the Council. The duration of the voting process to elect council members is two weeks.
So, what are the roles of the council? They are responsible for electing technical committee members. The council members also have veto rights like like of permanent security council members of the United Nation. Similar to Veto holders who can veto any resolution in the United Nations, the Council members can also veto any referendums in Kusama Network. Whenever something urgent comes up, Council members have the power to fast track it for a referendum along with the technical committee. It also has the power to propose changes in every 1 of 2 launch periods.
c. Technical Committee
As we said above, it’s the Council that elects technical committee members. So, who all are the part of the technical committee? The development teams. The teams that specify Polkadot or Kusama runtime successfully can become a part of the technical committee. Their responsibility is to decide if any referendums are urgent or not. If it is, they can fast-track it along with the Council.
KUSAMA (KSM) Tokenomics
In the initial days of KSM tokens, DOT holders received KSM tokens at a 1:1 ratio in an airdrop. Other users that had no DOT tokens can get them from a frictional faucet.
The first thing that stands out about KSM tokens is that their supply is not capped. It is an inflationary token, and the number of KSM tokens will increase by 10% every year. As for its circulating supply, there were over 8,470,000 KSM tokens in circulation on May 30, 2020.
Kusama Network has implemented a unique way to decide how much proportion of newly minted KSM tokens will go to the validators. If the percentage of staked KSM tokens is more than 50% of its circulating supply, the validators will receive all newly minted KSM tokens. But if the percentage of staked KSM tokens is less than 50% of the KSM token’s circulating supply, some part of the newly minted tokens will go to the Kasuma treasury.
How to Buy Kusama (KSM)
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Kusama – The Playground for Projects Launching on Polkadot
With Polkadot growing at a rapid pace, Kusama stands to benefit from it. After all, Kusama is a playground for projects looking to launch their project on Polkadot. You can view Kusama as the wild cousin of Polkadot as it is censorship-resistant and lax in terms of governance and other rules that developers have to follow on Polkadot. In the future, Polkadot and Kusama may also be connected via the bridge for cross-chain Interoperability.
Due to the creative freedom available in Kusama, there may come a time when Kusama will become a go-to blockchain for NFT projects. Polkadot, on the other hand, will remain a dominant force in the DeFi space. Also, Kusama will soon begin auctioning parachains, and it is one of the highlights in the crypto space in 2021. Many are eagerly waiting for it.
As of now, many users find it difficult to use Kusama. But in time, they will get used to it. Overall, Kusama Network, though a parallel network to Polkadot, is carving a niche for itself and becoming a leading project in the blockchain space.