Kusama and Polkadot are independent, standalone networks built on similar codebases but with different priorities. Kusama is wild and fast; great for bold experimentation and early-stage deployment. Polkadot is more conservative, prioritizing stability and dependability.


What the two networks have 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.


Both Polkadot and Kusama have:

  • Nominated Proof of Stake (NPoS) system;
  • Parachains connected to the Relay chain;
  • Parachains talking to each other and to the Relay chain via XCM;
  • Forkless upgrades that don't require validators to upgrade in advance;
  • On-chain governance that gives every DOT or KSM owner a say in how the network will change.


Key differences


Polkadot

Kusama

High securityLow barriers to entry for parachain deployment
High stabilityLow bond requirements for validators and parachains
More conservative governance and upgradeLatest technology
High validator rewardsLow slashing penalties

Fast iteration
Practical differences
Existential deposit: 1 DOT
Existential deposit: 0.0000333333 KSM
Minimum stake: 10 DOT
Minimum stake: 0.1 KSM
Unbonding and slash defer: 28 days
Unbonding and slash defer: 7 days
Minimum crowdloan contribution: 5 DOT
Minimum crowdloan contribution: 0.1 KSM
Parachain slot lease: up to 96 weeks
Parachain slot lease: up to 48 weeks
Era: 24 hours, Epoch: 4 hours
Era: 6 hours, Epoch: 1 hour
Democracy voting/launching/enactment: 28 days
Democracy voting/launching: 7 days, enactment: 8 days
Council: up to 13 members, up to 20 runners up
Council: up to 19 members, up to 19 runners up
Council term and voting: 7 days
Council term and voting: 1 day
Treasury: 24 days between spends
Treasury: 6 days between spends


Use cases


Kusama is the "canary network" for Polkadot. It is not a testnet and has an economic value. All new things come to Kusama first to be tried in a live, fully decentralized, and community-controlled network with real-world conditions and lower stakes.


Kusama may be the perfect environment for ambitious experiments with new ideas and innovations in areas like governance, incentives, monetary policy, and DAOs (decentralized autonomous organizations). Future upgrades to the Polkadot runtime will likely be deployed to Kusama before Polkadot. This way, not only will we be able to see how these new technologies and features will perform under real-world conditions, but teams who have deployed to both networks will also get an advanced look at how their own technology will perform under those upgrades.


Polkadot is and always will be the primary network for deploying enterprise-level applications and those that entail high-value transactions requiring bank-level security, stability, and robustness. It can also be an upgrade path for early-stage applications.

Many projects will maintain parachains on both networks, experimenting and testing new technologies and features on Kusama before deploying them to Polkadot. Some teams will decide just to stay on Kusama. Projects that require high-throughput but don't necessarily require bank-like security, such as some gaming, social networking, and content distribution applications, are particularly good candidates for this use case.


What's next?


Over time, Polkadot and Kusama networks will evolve independently. Their respective communities will decide whether the networks will be converging or diverging. Governance on both Polkadot and Kusama is decentralized and permissionless, and everyone who owns the native token (DOT for Polkadot and KSM for Kusama) has a say in how the network is run.