Kusama is a scalable blockchain network, designed to help understand how the various cutting edge technologies introduced in areas such as governance, staking and sharding work under “real” economic conditions and to give coders a fast-paced environment for development.
In July 2019, Kusama began as a proof-of-authority (PoA) network with validator nodes run exclusively by Web3 Foundation (without compensation, of course!). During this period, much functionality of the network was disabled and the usage was limited to Staking, Sessions and Claims modules; specifically, bonding, nominating and issuing an intention to become a validator.
Gradually, Kusama moved from PoA to become a decentralized Nominated Proof of Stake (NPoS) system. Today, 600 validators monitor the network, backed by more than 2,000 nominators. Most of the functionality has been enabled and the next step is to add parachains.
Kusama’s governance is a tricameral model. The Referendum chamber (which can be roughly considered the “legislative” chamber) has the broadest membership of all three and is by far the most powerful. All legislation (i.e. changes to the Kusama’s logic) must gain the approval of this chamber, which happens as an assembly of all Kusama token (KSM) holders weighted according to both the amount of KSM held and conviction. In simple terms, everyone who owns KSM has a vote in running the network.
The other two chambers are the Council (which has some similarities to an executive body) and the Technical Committee. The membership of the Council is a proportionally representative approval vote by token holders, weighted only by the number of tokens controlled. As of August 2020, the Council has 17 members and will be reaching 19 seats with the upcoming network upgrade.
The Technical Committee is composed of the teams that have successfully implemented or specified either a Polkadot/Kusama runtime or Polkadot Host. Teams are added or removed from the Technical Committee via a simple majority vote of the Council.
All KSM holders have a say in the network's future. A technique known as Positive Turnout Bias (or simply, super-majority carries) is applied to referenda (or legislation that changes Kusama's logic): as the number of distinct voters increases, the amount of a majority that is needed to pass the legislation reduces from 100% to 50%. At 100% turnout (i.e. with all tokens attached to a vote, regardless of its lock period), no legislation may be passed without at least 50% of the first chamber’s total votes in approval. As the turnout lowers, the mechanics for approval differ depending on how the legislation was brought forward. Put another way, at anything less than a full turnout, a super-majority is needed to approve.
In addition to legislation, Kusama’s governance apparatus includes the Treasury. The Treasury is a pot of KSM filled through transaction fees, slashing, inefficiencies in Kusama’s staking set and lost deposits.
Spending suggestions may be presented by anyone, with a 5% non-returnable deposit on the amount to be spent. These are then approved or rejected by the council. Read more about the Treasury and projects funded by it here. The Treasury is ultimately controlled by KSM holders and it will be that group and their collective imagination and judgement which really determines the course it follows.
See the Kusama website for further information and links.
Kusama is a project of Web3 Foundation.
Read the original 2019 Kusama Rollout and Governance article here.