Polkadot vs Kusama
Differences between Polkadot and Kusama relay chains

Many will have heard that Kusama is Polkadot’s “canarian network” and before counting similarities and differences, it is worth explaining for those who do not know what the adjective means. The name comes from the term “canary in a coal mine”. The miners used to take canaries with them to the mine because the birds would stop singing in their cages if there was a dangerous gas leak and would die giving an early warning to the miners. Kusama performs the same function as a virtual copy of Polkadot, allowing for the most realistic testing environment possible for blockchain projects.

Kusama and Polkadot are independent, self-contained networks built on very similar code bases, but Kusama has faster governance parameters and lower barriers to entry. While Kusama is snappier and faster, Polkadot is more conservative, prioritizing stability and reliability, with slower and more methodical governance and update processes.

Kusama offers an early and faster version of Polkadot to enable teams and developers to build parachains and deploy applications in an environment with financial incentives that will mirror those of Polkadot.

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Similarities Between Polkadot and Kusama relay chains

Since governance in Polkadot and Kusama is decentralized and permissionless, the networks will evolve independently, converging or diverging over time based on the decisions of their respective communities. Kusama shares the same underlying architecture: a multi-chain, heterogeneous, nominated proof-of-stake (NPOS)-based design. They also share key innovations like governance, hot-swappable runtimes for forklift trucks, on-chain upgrades, and cross-message passing for interoperability. That is, Polkadot and Kusama share the vast majority of their underlying technology.

Differences between Polkadot and Kusama relay chains

Speed ​​is the first key technical difference. Kusama has modified the governance parameters that allow faster updates. This does not mean that the blockchain itself is faster, in the sense of faster block times or transaction throughput, but rather that there is a shorter amount of time between governance events. Thanks to this speed of Kusama, Polkadot can move slowly and calmly, safe from the interactions that Kusama experiences in advance and then reports.

Kusama also has a lower barrier to entry for development teams wishing to deploy as parachains, as the network has a lower membership requirement than Polkadot. Validators also benefit from Kusama, which offers them the opportunity to refine their validation infrastructure.

For Kusama, her existence is largely meant to mitigate the risk of Polkadot. However, to do that, you have to adopt an above-average risk-acceptance policy, and even if individual projects are risk-averse, they could be hit by a major issue caused by another chain’s test, or even a test of Kusama herself.

A motto for Kusama is “expect chaos,” and it’s a fair reminder that this is a testnet when all is said and done. The fact that it’s one of the most realistic testnets on the market, and almost a Polkadot clone for that very reason, makes chaos all the more likely. However, it is all for a very positive and purposeful goal: to make the Polkadot Ecosystem, and every parachain it hosts, the most tested and enduring blockchain projects possible.



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