Why Kusama, the Canary Network Pioneering Polkadot’s Innovation, Is Crucial for the Ecosystem

Kusama (KSM) serves as a testing ground for Polkadot, offering developers a live environment to try out their early Polkadot projects. It’s like a playground where developers can experiment with their ideas using real cryptocurrency. 

Kusama is crucial for the Polkadot ecosystem because it acts as a “Canary Network,” ensuring that major updates and code releases undergo rigorous testing before going public on Polkadot.

Just like Polkadot, Kusama has its native cryptocurrency, KSM, which operates on its independent blockchain. KSM serves various purposes within the network, including governance, staking for network operation, bonding to connect chains as parachains, and functioning as a utility token for users.

In essence, Kusama is a testing environment for Polkadot, allowing developers to trial new blockchains and applications with real cryptocurrency trading. It also serves as a testing ground for official Polkadot upgrades.

Understanding the Value of Kusama (KSM)

Kusama (often represented as KSM) possesses a unique and valuable position in blockchain technology. Here’s what makes KSM valuable and why people find it appealing:

Pioneering Role: Kusama serves as a “canary network” for Polkadot, which means it gets an early peek at new decentralized applications (dApps) and projects within the broader Polkadot ecosystem. Think of it as a first-mover advantage. 

Many dApps choose to launch on Kusama before fine-tuning and upgrading for the Polkadot network. This early exposure to cutting-edge projects makes Kusama an attractive platform for innovation.

Parachains: Kusama boasts Parachains, like separate, specialized blockchains that operate alongside the main network. They open doors to unique token models and incentives not typically available on the Kusama Network. 

To secure a spot on a Parachain, projects must win slots through Parachain Auctions. These slots hold significant value and require KSM to be locked during the lease period. Winning a Parachain slot also means participating in future auctions to renew the lease, creating a steady demand for KSM.

Network Operations: The KSM token is the engine that keeps the Kusama network running smoothly. Users can unlock value by actively participating in various network activities. 

This includes staking KSM, bonding it for various purposes, and engaging in governance decisions. These activities contribute to the network’s stability and growth while rewarding participants.

Key Features of Kusama

Kusama offers a range of features that make it an intriguing ecosystem within the broader Polkadot framework. Its most prominent feature is its striking similarity to the Polkadot architecture and structure.

While it functions as a testnet, the term “testnet” doesn’t fully capture the extent of testing projects can undertake before launching their parachains on Polkadot. Kusama continuously subjects not only the projects hosted on it but also the ecosystem itself to rigorous testing. 

It remains a step ahead of Polkadot, experimenting with new features that Polkadot plans to deploy once they are refined. This approach allows the team to be more innovative and take calculated risks without jeopardizing the stability of the Polkadot ecosystem.

Some other noteworthy features of Kusama include:

Participation through KSM

Users can participate by acquiring KSM, Kusama’s native token. Those who participated in the Polkadot sale can claim a proportionate amount of KSM through the Kusama Claims process.

Acquiring Parachain Slots

Acquiring a parachain slot is a significant feature of Kusama, as it’s essential for testing. Chains can gain entry as “common good” parachains through a voting process, win slots via parachain auctions, or operate as “parathreads,” which offer pay-as-you-go access with auctions for each block.

Validator Setup

Users can set themselves up as validators, offering an excellent opportunity to familiarize themselves with the process and understand the expectations and requirements before transitioning to Polkadot. The minimum staking requirement on Kusama is lower than on Polkadot. 

Alternatively, users can become nominators, which involves some staking but allows for a more hands-off approach. Nominators assign their stake to validators and receive a portion of the rewards or are penalized if the validator they support behaves poorly and gets penalized.

Staking for Governance

Staking on Kusama also enables users to propose and vote on referendums. This mechanism contributes to the network’s evolution and improvement over time.

How Does Kusama Work?

Kusama operates by allowing the creation of two types of blockchains, the Relay Chain and Parachains:

Imagine Kusama as a bustling city with two crucial types of roads:

The Relay Chain: Consider this the main highway where all the important traffic flows. It’s where transactions in Kusama are confirmed and made official. To speed things up, the relay chain divides the task of adding new transactions from the job of checking and verifying them. 

Parachains are like personalized side streets branching off the main highway. Each parachain has its unique features and purpose. However, these parachains rely on the computing power of the relay chain to ensure that transactions are accurate and secure.

The Relay Chain in Detail

Now, let’s zoom in on how the relay chain maintains order and agreement:

Kusama uses a nominated proof-of-stake (NPoS) system for consensus. Anyone who holds KSM can participate by locking their KSM in a special contract and taking on one or more vital roles:

Validators: These are like traffic cops. They validate the data in parachain blocks, ensuring everything is in order. Validators also make important decisions about the network’s rules and vote on proposed changes.

Nominators: Nominators are like trusty assistants to validators. They help secure the Relay Chain by choosing reliable validators and delegating their staked KSM tokens to them. Essentially, nominators support validators and have a say in network decisions through them.

By staking KSM and actively performing these roles, participants can earn rewards in the form of more KSM tokens.

Kusama Governance

Kusama’s governance structure empowers various types of users to influence its development:

The Referendum Chamber: If you own KSM tokens, you have a voice in this chamber. You can propose changes to the network and participate in voting on significant changes suggested by others. It’s like having a say in the city’s rules.

The Council: Council members are elected by KSM holders. They have a significant role in the decision-making process. They propose changes to the network and decide which changes from the broader KSM-holding community get incorporated into the software. Initially, there were seven council seats, but more seats are expected to be added as the Kusama community grows.

The Technical Committee: This group is composed of teams actively building Kusama. In case of emergencies or special circumstances, they can make unique proposals. Council members vote to approve their membership.

Kusama combines a robust relay chain, customizable parachains, and a governance structure that encourages active participation from users to shape its future development and ensure the network’s stability and innovation. It’s like a dynamic city that is always open to improvements and new ideas.

Understanding Kusama’s Native Token

Kusama’s native cryptocurrency, KSM, is a fundamental component of the Kusama blockchain platform. It serves various vital roles within the network:

Staking Rewards: Validators play a critical role in ensuring the security and functionality of the Kusama network. To become validators, they must stake a certain amount of KSM tokens. In recognition of their efforts and contributions, validators receive rewards in the form of additional KSM tokens. This mechanism incentivizes individuals to participate actively in maintaining the network’s integrity.

Voting Power: KSM token holders wield significant influence within the Kusama ecosystem. They are privileged to participate in various voting processes that directly impact the platform’s future. These decisions include project developments, network upgrades, and other critical matters. KSM holders’ votes help shape the direction in which Kusama evolves.

Transaction Fees: KSM tokens are the currency of choice when paying transaction fees within the Kusama network. Whether you’re sending KSM to another user or engaging in any other transaction on the platform, these tokens are used to cover the associated fees. This ensures that the network remains operational and sustainable.

Parachain Deployment: Developers looking to deploy parachains on the Kusama network also rely on KSM tokens. These tokens cover the fees associated with implementing parachains, making them an essential resource for those seeking to expand the platform’s capabilities.

Distinguishing Kusama from Polkadot

Kusama and Polkadot may seem like siblings, but they do have their unique traits. Let’s explore how they differ:

Codebase and Structure

Kusama and Polkadot share the same codebase, which means they have a lot in common regarding their underlying structure. You can think of Kusama as an early, untested version of Polkadot. They function as multichain, heterogeneously-sharded blockchains powered by nominated proof of stake (NPOS). 

Approach and Priorities

Here’s where they start to diverge. Polkadot takes a more conservative approach, focusing on reliability and stability. It’s like the careful planner in the family. On the other hand, Kusama is a wild and fast sibling. It’s not just a testnet; it’s a place for adventurous developers to experiment boldly in the early stages of their projects. 

Developmental Network 

Kusama serves as a developmental network, providing a playground for trying out new ideas and technologies. It’s like a workshop for creators. This is crucial because Polkadot is gearing up to unleash cutting-edge technology, and it’s essential to iron out any wrinkles on Kusama before rolling them out on the mainnet.


The speed of Kusama and Polkadot varies due to differences in their governance parameters. On Kusama, things move faster. For instance, it takes only seven days to vote on proposals, referendums, or upgrades and another eight days to implement the approved changes. In contrast, Polkadot has a one-month timeline for each of these steps. This makes Kusama up to four times faster than Polkadot.

The reason behind this shorter time frame is one of Kusama’s core objectives. While Polkadot offers a safer and more secure environment, its ability to do so relies on Kusama continuously testing all deployments before they go live.  

Low Barriers to Entry

Kusama offers lower staking requirements than Polkadot, making it more accessible for validators to get started. This allows validators to strengthen their validation infrastructure through stress tests in real economic conditions before leaping Polkadot. 

The lower bonding requirement also empowers developers to deploy their parachains and explore design options with greater flexibility. As a result, developers can experiment with new and innovative features at a lower cost than Polkadot.

Use Cases

Considering the specific use cases for both Kusama and Polkadot is essential. Due to its reliability and security, Polkadot is the go-to choice for deploying enterprise-level applications and high-value transactions. 

On the other hand, Kusama is better suited for early-stage applications. It prioritizes speed, innovation, and experimentation with the latest technology over robustness and reliability. 

Kusama’s design is perfect for new networks and less established teams still fine-tuning their designs and exploring different features before transitioning to Polkadot, where the stakes are higher.


Kusama (KSM) is a pioneering force within the blockchain space, offering a unique blend of innovation and utility. Its role as a canary network for Polkadot grants it the privilege of early exposure to groundbreaking dApps and projects, fostering an environment of constant experimentation and progress.

Kusama’s Parachains introduce novel token models and incentives, making it a platform where creativity flourishes. These Parachains also consistently demand KSM tokens, enhancing their value.

At its core, KSM serves as the lifeblood of the Kusama network, powering its operations and governance. Users actively participate in activities, from staking to governance decisions, contributing to the network’s vibrancy and resilience. 

As the blockchain ecosystem expands, Kusama’s significance as a dynamic and forward-looking platform is set to grow, attracting visionaries and enthusiasts alike.


What is Kusama?

Kusama is a blockchain platform that serves as a canary network for Polkadot, allowing early testing of new decentralized applications and projects.

How does the KSM token work?

KSM is the native cryptocurrency of Kusama, used for staking, voting, transaction fees, and participating in Parachain auctions.

What are Parachains on Kusama?

Parachains are specialized blockchains within Kusama that enable unique token models and incentives obtained through competitive auctions.

What's the advantage of launching on Kusama first?

Launching on Kusama provides a first-mover advantage, allowing projects to test and refine their ideas before moving to the Polkadot network.

How does Kusama's speed compare to Polkadot's?

Kusama is up to four times faster than Polkadot, thanks to shorter timeframes for decision-making and implementation of upgrades and proposals.

Disclaimer. The information provided is not trading advice. Cryptopolitan.com holds no liability for any investments made based on the information provided on this page. We strongly recommend independent research and/or consultation with a qualified professional before making any investment decisions.

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Joseph Katala

Joseph is a seasoned professional in the crypto and blockchain industry, boasting over three years of experience. His expertise spans a wide range of roles, from crypto writing and analysis to blockchain development. With a deep passion for the transformative potential of these technologies, he is committed to fostering understanding within the crypto and blockchain spheres through media.

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