Kusama & Polkadot: How do they compare?

Kusama & Polkadot: How do they compare?

By Web3 Foundation | Kusama | 9 Sep 2020


Polkadot and its wild cousin Kusama are built on nearly the same codebase but they have a few key differences. We’ll explore these briefly below and look at how use cases on Kusama are likely to differ from Polkadot as the networks develop.

Kusama offers an early, adventurous version of Polkadot to allow teams and developers to build parachains and deploy applications in an environment with economic incentives that mirror those on Polkadot. As a canary network, Kusama was created to warn of any major issues before launch or deployment to the higher-stakes environment of Polkadot. In this sense, Kusama plays an important role in securing and stabilizing Polkadot for more risk-averse applications.

Technical comparison

Because governance on Polkadot and Kusama is decentralized and permissionless, the networks will evolve independently, converging or diverging over time according to the decisions of their respective communities. However, currently, there are a few important distinctions to be made.

First, let's start with what the two networks share in common. Kusama was released as an early version of the same code to be used in Polkadot, which means they share the same underlying architecture: a multichain, heterogeneously-sharded design based on nominated proof of stake (NPoS). They also share key innovations like on-chain governance, hot-swappable runtimes for forkless, on-chain upgrades, and cross-chain message passing for interoperability. That is to say, Polkadot and Kusama share the vast majority of their underlying technology.


The first key technical difference between Polkadot and Kusama is that Kusama has modified governance parameters that allow for faster upgrades. This does not mean that the blockchain itself is faster, in the sense of faster block times or transaction throughput (these are the same on both networks), but that there's a shorter amount of time between governance events such as proposing new referenda, voting, and enacting approved upgrades. This allows Kusama to adapt and evolve faster than Polkadot.

Lean setups

Kusama will have a lower barrier to entry for developer teams that wish to deploy as a parachain, as the network will likely have a lower bonding requirement than Polkadot. Validators will also benefit from Kusama, which offers an opportunity to refine their validation infrastructure. Kusama validators can also benefit from the 1000 Validators Program, which helps them kickstart their Kusama nodes with nominations from Web3 Foundation and Parity Technologies. For those who want to validate on Kusama and Polkadot, the same setup and infrastructure can be used for both networks.

Use cases

Polkadot is and always will be the primary network for the deployment of enterprise-level applications and those that entail high-value transactions requiring bank-level security and stability. However, Kusama will maintain several ongoing use cases after Polkadot has launched, and will likely be a place where we see some exciting experimentation with new technologies going forward.

Kusama provides a live, fully decentralized and community controlled network with real-world conditions and incentives. The initial use case for Kusama is as a pre-production environment, whereby projects maintain parachains on both networks, experimenting and testing new technologies and features on Kusama before deploying them to Polkadot. This is where Kusama gets its designation as a canary network, as experimentation on Kusama will provide a more accurate understanding of how a particular parachain, blockchain component, or validator setup will perform under real-world conditions, with lower stakes in the event of problems or bugs than on Polkadot. Projects like Chainlink, Acala and Moonbeam have already mentioned this as one of their main reasons for deploying to Kusama.

Another major use case for Kusama is as an early-stage network for newer, less-established teams that are still iterating on their technology and business model.

Kusama may also prove to be the perfect environment for ambitious experiments with new ideas and new innovations in areas like governance, incentives, monetary policy, and DAOs (decentralized autonomous organizations). 

Learn more

Read the full article Kusama & Polkadot: Comparing the Cousins here

Join the Polkadot and Kusama Community 


Web3 Foundation
Web3 Foundation

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Kusama is a blockchain network designed for risk-taking and radical innovation, built using (almost) the same code as the Polkadot network. This blog is run by Web3 Foundation. All proceeds from tips will be donated to charity.

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