Kusama vs polkadot


As an independent economy, kusama’s protocol, collective and culture is on an inevitable path towards claiming increasing sovereignity over all aspects of its governance.

This post outlines a brief history of the road to these demands and outlines objective economic imperatives that underly this progressive separation of interests.

The post concludes with a request for feedback as to the communities preference when it comes to the naming of a new administrative entity whose existence aims to further expedite this process.


kusama was conceived as an early stage testing ground for polkadot.

More than a test-net, kusama would have real value at stake.

As a result the network is not coordinated via DOT, but by KSM.

As a predictable consequence, kusama is evolving differently to polkadot.

Though on the surface the ecosystems appear similar, small and almost imperceptible differences compound and magnify overtime, leading to the ecosystem’s inevitable separation.

Every transfer, exchange, vote, spend, contribution and onboarded/offboarded parachain contributes to the steadily layering bedrock that is kusama’s emergent culture. The same is true for polkadot.

To be explicit, this is not a bad thing - a canary in full song, will be far more useful a signal to polkadot than keeping it trapped in a gilded cage.

kusama and polkadot the theory

Initial expectations mirrored that of the independent relays - each team would run a canary-net and a main-net on kusama and polkadot respectively - a pragmatic sounding approach in theory.

However when the rubber hit the road, most teams discovered that running one on-chain governed parachain economy on bleeding edge tech, whilst trying to create functioning use-cases and attracting users is hard.

Attempting these acrobatics for two independent, emergent and naturally divergent network economies whilst dodging the slings and arrows of token-holders and regulators is in practice impossible.

kusama and polkadot the reality

Established teams

As a result of this lived experience, established teams have either;

  • deprecated their canary-nets
  • forgotten they exist
  • transitioned their blockchains from kusama to polkadot

Teams transitioning are led by the sensible sounding strategy that a higher market cap home, with higher attack costs, broader marketing exposure, a larger treasury and greater corporate interest will address the fundamental issues they faced with bootstrapping basic network effects when operating in kusama.

For those stupid enough to continue making kusama their primary home, they are the exception that proves the rule, preferring to secure their security needs from the canary net.

Incoming teams

Incoming teams to the ecosystem are avoiding the two track parachain strategy entirely, preferring to launch into polkadot, for many of the same reasons as those transitioning from kusama to polkadot.

Treasury incentives

With kusama’s common good fund holding just $7m (KSM equivalent), it is a natural assumption to perceive the network as less potent than its big brother, which currently holds over $220m (DOT equivalent).

As a result of this perception and due to the arrival of large holders such as HACN in kusama blocking what they feel is profligate, unfocused or poorly considered spending, many individuals and teams are now avoiding running the KSM gauntlet, preferring to tap the larger and more liquid fund.

Despite polkadot possessing more technically experienced teams, more impressive sounding partnerships and a larger common good fund, there is cause to question their lack of direct experience when it comes to operating substrate based economies not in theory, but in practice.

As a result, many of the projects now being funded in polkadot feel cheap given the value of the pot and the more confident pitches of their proponents.

However in time they will likely be reflected on as being another expensive experiment in adding further complexity to an already complex system, built by teams who understand much of the theory of the tech, but with no lived experience as to how substrate’s sovereign social networks operate in practice.

For example it is fascinating to see teams presenting theoretical solutions to the problems of ecosystem DAOs, who have never operated a DAO in the ecosystem and who mistakenly assume the lack of adoption is somehow due to missing tooling or functionality, rather than more deep seated issues with basic incentive alignment.

Value accrual incentives

As token holders begin to question the value of spending to date, there is a natural shift to towards decison-making moving more explicitly towards strategies that are more finely tuned towards generating appreciation of their holdings, or making these assets productive through fee revenues.

Feeling this sentiment change, teams keen to access treasury funds are shifting proposals towards more common good narratives - a process that inevitably leads towards their tooling or project using DOT or KSM as their preferred payment, access or fee token.

This process will drive decision-making towards a singular economic asset - either DOT or KSM.

The implication of this is a further divergence between the evolving narratives, capabilities and value accrual of kusama and polkadot.

kusama vs polkadot

Any good story requires a tension of light and dark, heroes and villains, overlords and underdogs.

Without this tension, stories drift, they lose their power to motivate meaning, purpose and direction.

There is a good reason mischief and magic emerges from artistic endeavours and not corporate initatives.

Parity and the Web3 Foundation have stewarded a technology to a proof of concept stage - in its current incarnation, Substrate, Parachains and Relays work. All the basic functionality to operate on-chain organisations exists. There is capital sitting waiting to be directed and there is a diverse array of talent.

There is no doubt that The Fellowship’s alliance of talent will be capable, proficient and reliable stewards of the core technology, however there is a question as to whether a reliance on these and other expert collectives have the qualities to inspire the sort of impact that moves a technology from being functional to being culturally impactful.

Whether people realise it or not, kusama and polkadot need to exist in opposition for either to succeed.

If its not obvious now, it will be soon.

For Star Wars fans here, we could see Polkadot as The Empire and Kusama as the Rebel Alliance, with Kabocha our very own Tatooine. Sure the rebels argue a lot, seem chaotically organised and massively under-resourced, but as with all great rebel stories, they are driven by something more than money and market-caps.

kusama fund or foundation?

As part of continuing rebellion that aims to highlight the naturally diverging interests, politics and cultures of the kusama and polkadot protocols we would like some feedback.

Do you prefer:

  • kusama Foundation
  • kusama Fund

0 voters


Really enjoyed reading this and loved the Star Wars analogy. Cheers!

Very interesting both this thread and the kusama-treasury-annual-spending-analysis-2020-2023-june/3264 one. I don’t want to jump to conclusions as I’m not up to date with the community, but my question in the discord was whether there is a roadmap for Kusama, and reading both threads, I understand that there isn’t.

Either way, I’ll stick around and delve into the forum to better understand the current state it’s in.