Kusama is the canary network of Polkadot. Essentially that means Kusama serves to detect any kind of vulnerabilities or weaknesses in the Polkadot code base – much like canaries were used in coal mines to detect toxic gases. It was built by the same team that created Polkadot, a company known as Parity Technologies. Its founder is Dr. Gavin Wood, a world-renowned computer scientist and programmer, who also co-founded Ethereum.
In addition, Kusama is funded by grants from the Web3 Foundation, which was launched to help nurture and steward technologies and applications in the fields of decentralised web software protocols. The Web 3 Foundation also supports Kusama with research and community development thanks to its growth team.
What is Kusama
Self-described as “Polkadot’s wild cousin”, Kusama is an experimental blockchain platform that is designed to provide an interoperable and scalable framework for developers. It is based on the same code as Polkadot, working as a test bed for new features before they are implemented in Polkadot. Once developers have had the chance to experiment with new features in Kusama, the code will be deployed to Polkadot.
The protocol kicked off in July 2019, when DOT token holders were able to claim their KSM token by making an Ethereum transaction that allowed them to be in Kusama’s genesis block. In the beginning, using a Proof-of-Authority model the only validators allowed to generate blocks were those run by Parity and the Web 3 Foundation. Eventually, the transition was made to Proof-of-Stake with governance in the hands of KSM holders.
In Kusama there is no central party that controls the protocol. The network is governed by a decentralized network of KSM token holders who vote to make decisions. For example, there was a ticket on the agenda to increase the number of validators from 130 to 150, but the community voted against the proposal and the number of validators has remained at the original number.
Participating on Kusama network
Besides end-users, there are two important roles the community performs: builder and maintainer, and end-user.
These are developers who build parachains, parathreads, bridges and block explorers. Deploying parachains in Kusama is a lot cheaper than in Polkadot, and because its built using the same code, applications built in Kusama gives developers the right experience to eventually deploy to Polkadot.
There are several ways users maintain the network. Nominators choose good and reputable validators and stake KSM. Validators add new blocks and participate in consensus with other validators. They earn rewards for performing their validation duties. Governance actors participate in the evolution of Kusama: what direction it will take, and what it will turn into. Improvements and changes to Kusama code base can be introduced through proposals that can be submitted by anyone as long as a minimum amount of KSM is deposited for that purpose.
Anyone who has participated in the DOT sale and has received the DOT indicator token is entitled to an equivalent amount of KSM on the Kusama network. You can also get KSM through a frictional proof of work faucet. There are however some requirements that should be fulfilled in order to use it. One of them is to own a GitHub account that was created before 21 June 2019.
Builders and governance participants can apply for a grant from the Web 3 Foundation to obtain KSM. And if you discover unknown vulnerabilities in the Kusama network, you will be rewarded with KSM as part of the bug bounty program.
Lastly, you can trade KSM on most crypto exchanges. The token has performed considerably well hitting the market at $0.91 in January 2020, going all the way up to $60.04 in September that same year. Even though the price has pulled back since then, it is currently trading at $38.56 and has gained 31% during the last month.