Kusama Overview

Learn all about the Kusama network.

Kusama (KSM) is referred to as a canary network to the Polkadot blockchain. Just as a canary signals potential danger in a coal mine, Kusama is built to live as a test-bed for Polkadot’s innovations and developments before they go live to signal any potential pitfalls.

Kusama is described in the words of Dr. Gavin Wood, pioneer of the two projects,

“It is an early, unaudited, and wholly experimental pre-production trial network, designed to help understand how the various cutting edge technologies introduced in areas including governance, staking and sharding work under “real” economic conditions.”

While Kusama and Polkakdot share the same DNA, they are fundamentally different entities. Kusama was originally soft-launched in 2019, beginning as a Proof of Authority (PoA) controlled by a small number of validator nodes run by the Web3 Foundation. This centralized control lasted long enough to get at least 50 to 100 validators bonded and ready to take over the network. The transition from a centrally controlled PoA network to a decentralized network resulted in the launch of Kusama’s Genesis Governance apparatus and enablement of the Nominated Proof of Stake (NPoS) staking system. Today, Kusama is highly decentralized with 900 validators.

Kusama is pioneering interoperability by building a network that supports a constellation of independent blockchains. These self-sovereign blockchains are referred to as parachains and will be discussed further in this documentation. The Relay Chain acts as the central backbone of the Kusama network. Parachains create blocks of transactions that are sent to validators operating on the Relay Chain. These validators confirm that the blocks can be added permanently to the ledger. The result is that all parachains enjoy the same level of rigorous security guarantees.

Kusama enables developers to launch application-specific blockchains (parachains) tailored to their needs. These custom blockchains are designed to be interoperable with one another, allowing for seamless cross-chain communication and transfers of value. Communication is enabled by Cross-Chain Message Passing (XCMP), while transactions take place across bridge parachains in the network. Kusama operates a sharded blockchain model in which transactions are processed in parallel rather than sequentially, vastly improving the number of transactions per second.

The Kusama project was pioneered by Dr. Gavin Wood, a co-founder and former CTO of Ethereum, architect of the Solidity programming language, and author of the first formal specification of a blockchain, the Yellow Paper. Kusama is the network for testing, iterating, and experimenting with features that may or may not make it onto the main Polkadot chain. While Dr Wood’s groundbreaking Solidity language laid the foundation for using custom smart contracts on the Ethereum blockchain, Kusama is allowing any developer to create their custom blockchain.


Fast Facts

  • Token ticker: KSM
  • Inflation: 10% (the year of network launch)
  • Annual return (approx): >13%
  • Number of validators as of May 2021: 900
  • Token unbonding period: 7 days

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