Kusama is a "canary network" for Polkadot; an early release of the code that is available first and holds real economic value. For developers, Kusama is a proving ground for runtime upgrades, on-chain governance, and parachains.
On Kusama you can:
- Explore the politics. Campaign as a councillor or vote for new runtime proposals using Democracy.
- Hone your validator set-up. The minimum requirement for staking as a validator on Kusama is much lower than it is expected for Polkadot. There are also programs in place such as Thousand Validators to help community validators rise the ranks.
- Deploy a parachain. Kusama will get the functionality required for parachains before Polkadot. This includes participating in a parachain slot auction and composable applications.
- Join a cyber secret society. The Kappa Sigma Mu fraternity asks you to get a Kusama tattoo to join.
- Expect Chaos. Kusama is getting more battle tested day-by-day but it's built on the foundations of moving fast and trying new things.
Kusama is owned by those who hold the Kusama tokens (KSM). There's no central kill switch and all changes are made through the protocol's on-chain governance. Kusama is experimental. There are no guarantees.
The short answer is, everyone!
Kusama is a permissionless network and anyone can come along and start using it.
Those who participated in the Polkadot sale can claim a proportional amount of KSM through the Kusama Claims process.
KSM used to be publicly available through a highly-frictional faucet, but this has been decommissioned. Web3 Foundation is considering new ways to distribute KSM for people who need KSM to build.
As a KSM holder, you are able to interact with all the features of the Kusama network such as staking (i.e. validating or nominating), governance, parachain auctions, basic transfers and everything else.