The Kusama community has just voted to upgrade the runtime of the Statemine parachain, Kusama's instance of Statemint. Statemine was Kusama’s first featureful parachain. Like the launches of Kusama and Polkadot themselves, the launch of a parachain is a multi-step process.
In case you missed its launch, Kusama ran with a simple “shell” parachain to ensure block production, inclusion, and finalization. The Shell parachain has extremely limited functionality; it does not even have the notion of accounts. It only accepts a message from the Relay Chain stakeholder body to upgrade itself to something else.
The first upgrade from Shell to Statemine added features for fungible and non-fungible assets as well as the teleport interface to accept KSM from the Relay Chain as its native unit of account. However, the ability to create assets was restricted to the Kusama Council. This trial phase allowed the Parity and Web3 Foundation teams and Kusama Council to evaluate the performance of Statemine before lifting restrictions and allowing anyone to create assets.
After successfully demonstrating teleport functionality both to and from Statemine, and implementing the recommendations of our security auditors, the Kusama Council passed a motion to authorize the upgrade of Statemine to make it permissionless.
This upgrade process follows almost the exact same procedure as the Shell to Statemine upgrade. First, after passing stakeholder referendum, the Kusama Relay Chain sends a cross-chain message that authorizes the upgrade (technically, an authorization message of the hash of the new runtime). Once Statemine successfully processes the message, anyone can submit the authorized runtime. The network will autonomously upgrade to the new runtime approximately one hour after submission.
Once the network enacts this upgrade, anyone will be able to create assets and NFTs on Statemine with a 1 KSM deposit for each asset class. These assets have an interface for asset managers as well as users. Asset managers can add metadata like a name and symbol to their assets as well as perform admin operations like mint and burn. With this upgrade, we expect to see several real world assets represented on Statemine.
Of course, like the Relay Chain, parachains are upgradeable and will continue to evolve with improvements and new features. One of the first new features coming to Statemine will be the ability to pay transaction fees in designated assets. The Kusama Council has the ability to deem particular assets as “sufficient”, meaning that an account does not need to hold KSM in order to hold the asset as well. That is, the asset alone is sufficient to create an account on-chain.
These assets will also be sufficient for paying transaction fees. KSM is the default token used to pay fees with, but requiring the Relay Chain’s native token for asset operations can add unnecessary user friction. A future update will allow people to use Statemine without any KSM.
The development team is also working on the cross-chain interfaces necessary to use assets from Statemine on other parachains, making it the “home base” of assets in the Kusama network. Like the Relay Chain, Statemine will use a reserve based system where it tracks how many units of each asset have been sent to other parachains, and allow those parachains to send the assets back to Statemine. This feature will allow users to own and use an asset on multiple parachains, but with the asset’s properties, like total issuance, tracked in a single place.
Trustless cross-chain messaging opens new paradigms of development for multi-chain applications that harness the specialization of each chain. With the successful rollout of the first six parachains, the upgradeability of parachains and the Relay Chain, and new features and optimizations in the roadmap, Kusama is breaking new ground for the way people use and represent assets in blockchain networks.