The compartment mapper assembles Node applications in a sandbox

Usage no npm install needed!

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  import agoricCompartmentMapper from 'https://cdn.skypack.dev/@agoric/compartment-mapper';


Compartment mapper

:warning: CommonJS support is temporarily disabled, pending a solution for heuristic static analysis that does not entrain any Node.js built-ins.

The compartment mapper builds compartment maps for Node.js style applications, finding their dependencies and describing how to create Compartments for each package in the application.

Creating a compartment map for a Node.js application allows us to harness the SES module loader to encapsulate each dependency and grant the least necessary authority to each third-party package, mitigating prototype pollution attacks and some supply chain attacks. Since most Node.js packages do not modify objects in global scope, many libraries and applications work in Compartments without modification.

The importLocation function runs a compartmentalized application off the file system. The globals are properties to add to the globalThis in the global scope of the application's main package compartment. The modules are built-in modules to grant the application's main package compartment.

import fs from "fs";
import { importLocation } from "@agoric/compartment-mapper";

// ...

const modules = { fs };
const globals = { console };

const read = async location =>
  fs.promises.readFile(new URL(location).pathname);

const { namespace } = await importLocation(

The compartment mapper does nothing to arrange for the realm to be frozen. The application using the compartment mapper is responsible for applying the [SES] shim (if necessary) and calling lockdown to freeze the realm (if necessary). The compartment mapper is also not coupled specifically to Node.js IO and does not import any powerful modules like fs. The user must provide read and write functions from whatever IO powers they have.


A future version will allow application authors to distribute their choices of globals and built-in modules to third-party packages within the application, as with LavaMoat.

The importLocation function uses loadLocation. Using loadLocation directly allows for deferred execution or multiple runs with different globals or modules in the same process. Calling loadLocation returns an Application object with an import({ globals?, modules? }) method.

Use writeArchive to capture an application in an archival format. Archives are zip files with a compartment-map.json manifest file.

import fs from "fs";
import { writeArchive } from "@agoric/compartment-mapper";

const read = async location =>
  fs.promises.readFile(new URL(location).pathname);
const write = async (location, content) =>
  fs.promises.writeFile(new URL(location).pathname, content);

await writeArchive(
  new URL('app.zip', import.meta.url).toString(), // the archive to write
  new URL('app.js', import.meta.url).toString() // the application to capture

The writeArchive function uses makeArchive. Using makeArchive directly gives you the archive bytes.

Use importArchive to run an application from an archive. Note the similarity to importLocation.

import fs from "fs";
import { importArchive } from "@agoric/compartment-mapper";

// ...

const modules = { fs };
const globals = { console };

const read = async location =>
  fs.promises.readFile(new URL(location).pathname);

const { namespace } = await importArchive(

The importArchive function composes loadArchive and parseArchive. Use loadArchive to defer execution or run multiple times with varying globals. Use parseArchive to construct a runner from the bytes of an archive. The loadArchive and parseArchive functions return an Application object with an import({ globals?, modules? }) method.

Package Descriptors

The compartment mapper uses Compartments, one for each Node.js package your application needs. The compartment mapper generates a compartment graph from Node.js packaged module descriptors: the package.json files of the application and all its dependencies. Consequently, an application must have a package.json.

Each package has its own descriptor, package.json. Some standard properties of the descriptor are relevant and used by a compartment map.

  • name
  • type
  • main
  • exports
  • browser
  • dependencies
  • files

The compartment map will contain one compartment for each package.json necessary to build the application. Like Node.js, the compartment mapper trusts the package manager to arrange the packages such that a satisfactory version of every package's dependencies rests in a parent directory, under node_modules.

The main, browser, and exports properties determine the modules each package exports to other compartments.

The exports property describes package entry points and can be influenced by build tags. Currently, the only tag supported by the compartment mapper is import, which indicates that the module map should use ESM modules over CommonJS modules or other variants.


A future version may reveal other tags like browser to prepare an application for use in a web client. For this case, the compartment mapper would prepare a JSON manifest like an importmap (if not precisely an importmap). The "compartment map" would be consistent except when the dependency graph changes so updates could be automated with a postinstall script. Preparing a web application for production would follow a process similar to creating an archive, but with the browser build tag.

The browser and require tags are well-known but not yet supported. The browser tag will apply for compartment maps generated for use on the web. The require tag is a fallback for environments that do not support ESM and will never apply.

If no exports apply to the root of the compartment namespace ("."), the main property serves as a default.


The absence of exports implies that all of the modules in the package are valid entries. The compartment mapper does not yet support packages that do not name all of their exports in package.json, which is unfortunately a significant portion of packages in npm.


A future version may also respect the imports property.


A future version may also respect wildcard patterns in exports and imports.

The files property indicates all of the files in the package that should be vended out to applications. The file set implicitly includes all **.js, **.mjs, and **.cjs files. The file set implicitly excludes anything under node_modules.

With the compartment mapper, just as in Node.js, a module specifier that has no extension may refer either to the file with the js extension, or if that file does not exist, to the index.js file in the directory with the same name.


The compartment mapper does not yet do anything with the files globs but a future version of the compartment mapper will collect these in archives. The compartment mapper should eventually provide the means for any compartment to access its own files using an attenuated fs module or fetch global, in conjunction with usable values for import.meta.url in ECMAScript modules or __dirname and __filename in CommonJS modules.

Officially beginning with Node.js 14, Node.js treats .mjs files as ECMAScript modules and .cjs files as CommonJS modules. The .js extension indicates a CommonJS module by default, to maintain backward compatibility. However, packages that have a type property that explicitly says module will treat a .js file as an ECMAScript module.

This unforunately conflicts with packages written to work with the ECMAScript module system emulator in the esm package on npm, which allows every file with the js extension to be an ECMAScript module that presents itself to Node.js as a CommonJS module. To overcome such obstacles, the compartment mapper will accept a non-standard parsers property in package.json that maps file extensions, specifically js to the corresponding language name, one of mjs for ECMAScript modules, cjs for CommonJS modules, and json for JSON modules. All other language names are reserved and the defaults for files with the extensions cjs, mjs, and json default to the language of the same name unless overridden. If compartment mapper sees parsers, it ignores type, so these can contradict where using the esm emulator requires.

  "parsers": {"js": "mjs"}

Many Node.js applications using CommonJS modules expect to be able to require a JSON file like package.json. The compartment mapper supports loading JSON modules from any type of module. As of Node.js 14, Node does not support importing JSON using ECMAScript import directives, so using this feature may limit compatibility with the Node.js platform.

The compartment mapper supports loading CommonJS modules from ECMAScript modules as well as ECMAScript modules importing CommonJS modules. This presumes that the CommonJS modules exclusively use require calls with a single string argument, where require is not lexically bound, to declare their shallow dependencies, so that these modules and their transitive dependencies can be loaded before any module executes. As of Node.js 14, Node does not support loading ECMAScript modules from CommonJS modules, so using this feature may limit compatibility with the Node.js platform.

TODO A future version may introduce language plugins, so a package may state that files with a particular extension are either parsed or linked with another module.


The compartment mapper may elect to respect some properties specified for import maps.


A future version of the compartment mapper may add support for source-to-source translation in the scope of a package or compartment. This would be expressed in package.json using a property like translate that would contain a map from file extension to a module that exports a suitable translator.

For browser applications, the compartment mapper would use the translator modules in two modes. During development, the compartment mapper would be able to load the translator in the client, with the browser tag. The compartment mapper would also be able to run the translator in a separate non-browser compartment during bundling, so the translator can be excluded from the production application and archived applications.


The compartment mapper may also add support for compartment map plugins that would recognize packages in devDependencies that need to introduce globals. For example, packages that use JSX and a virtual DOM would be able to add a module-to-module translator and endow the compartment with the h the translated modules need.


Each of the workflows the compartment mapper executes a portion of one sequence of underlying internals.

  • search (search.js): Scan the parent directories of a given moduleLocation until successfully finding and reading a package.json for the containing application.
  • map compartments from Node.js packages (node-modules.js): Find and gather all the package.json files for the application's transitive dependencies. Use these to construct a compartment map describing how to construct a Compartment for each application package and how to link the modules each exports in the compartments that import them.
  • load compartments (archive.js): Using compartment.load, or implicitly through compartment.import, create a module graph for the application's entire working set. When creating an archive, this does not execute any of the modules. The compartment mapper uses the compartments and a special importHook that records the text of every module the main module needed.
  • import modules (import.js, import-archive.js): Actually execute the working set.

Around this sequence, we can enter late or depart early to store or retrieve an archive. The compartment mapper provides workflows that use read and write hooks when interacting with a filesystem or work with the archive bytes directly.

This diagram represents the the workflows of each of the public methods like importLocation. Each column of pipes | is a workflow from top to bottom. Each asterisk * denotes a step that is taken by that workflow. The dotted lines .'. : '.' indicate carrying an archive file from the end of one workflow to the beginning of another, either as bytes or a location.

In the diagram, "powers" refer to globals and built-in modules that may provide capabilities to a compartment graph. For writeArchive and makeArchive, these may be provided but will be ignored since the application does not execute.

                 loadLocation  writeArchive
             importLocation |  | makeArchive
                          | |  | |
                          | |  | |      parseArchive
                          | |  | |      | loadArchive
                          | |  | |      | | importArchive
                          | |  | |      | | |...
               search ->  * *  * *      | |'| . '
     map compartments ->  * *  * *   .'.| | |' : :
         read archive ->  |    | |  '   | * *  : :
       unpack archive ->  |    | |  :   * * *  : :
assemble compartments ->  *    * *  :       *  : : <- powers
    load compartments ->  *    * *  :       *  : :
       import modules ->  *    | |  :       *  : :
         pack archive ->       * *  '          : :
        write archive ->       * '.' <- data   : :
                               '..............'  : <- files

Compartment maps

The compartment mapper works by generating a compartment map from your application workspace and all of the node_modules it needs. A compartment map is similar to a lock file because it collects information from all of the installed modules. A compartment map describes how to construct compartments for each package in your application and link their module namespaces.

The compartment map shape:

// CompartmentMap describes how to prepare compartments
// to run an application.
type CompartmentMap = {
  tags: Tags,
  entry: Entry,
  compartments: Record<CompartmentName, Compartment>,
  realms: Record<RealmName, Realm>, // TODO

// Tags are the build tags for the compartment.
// These may include terms like "browser", meaning
// each compartment uses the implementation of each
// module suitable for use in a browser environment.
type Tags = Array<Tag>;
type Tag = string;

// Entry is a reference to the module that is the module to initially import.
type Entry = CompartmentModule;

// CompartmentName is an arbitrary string to name
// a compartment for purposes of inter-compartment linkage.
type CompartmentName = string;

// Compartment describes where to find the modules
// for a compartment and how to link the compartment
// to modules in other compartments, or to built-in modules.
type Compartment = {
  location: Location,
  modules: ModuleMap,
  parsers: ParserMap,
  types: ModuleParserMap,
  scopes: ScopeMap,
  // The name of the realm to run the compartment within.
  // The default is a single frozen realm that has no name.
  realm: RealmName? // TODO

// Location is the URL relative to the compartment-map.json's
// containing location to the compartment's files.
type Location = string;

// ModuleMap describes modules available in the compartment
// that do not correspond to source files in the same compartment.
type ModuleMap = Record<InternalModuleSpecifier, Module>;

// Module describes a module in a compartment.
type Module = CompartmentModule | FileModule | ExitModule;

// CompartmentModule describes a module that isn't in the same
// compartment and how to introduce it to the compartment's
// module namespace.
type CompartmentModule = {
  // The name of the foreign compartment:
  // TODO an absent compartment name may imply either
  // that the module is an internal alias of the
  // same compartment, or given by the user.
  compartment: CompartmentName?,
  // The name of the module in the foreign compartment's
  // module namespace:
  module: ExternalModuleSpecifier?,

// FileLocation is a URL for a module's file relative to the location of the
// containing compartment.
type FileLocation = string

// FileModule is a module from a file.
// When loading modules off a file system (src/import.js), the assembler
// does not need any explicit FileModules, and instead relies on the
// compartment to declare a ParserMap and optionally ModuleParserMap and
// ScopeMap.
// The compartment mapper provides a Compartment importHook and moduleMapHook
// that will search the filesystem for candidate module files and infer the
// type from the extension when necessary.
type FileModule = {
   location: FileLocation,
   parser: Parser,

// ExitName is the name of a built-in module, to be threaded in from the
// modules passed to the module executor.
type ExitName = string;

// ExitModule refers to a module that comes from outside the compartment map.
type ExitModule = {
  exit: ExitName

// InternalModuleSpecifier is the module specifier
// in the namespace of the native compartment.
type InternalModuleSpecifier = string;

// ExternalModuleSpecifier is the module specifier
// in the namespace of the foreign compartment.
type ExternalModuleSpecifier = string;

// ParserMap indicates which parser to use to construct static module records
// from sources, for each supported file extension.
// For parity with Node.js, a package with `"type": "module"` in its
// `package.json` would have a parser map of `{"js": "mjs", "cjs": "cjs",
// "mjs": "mjs"}`.
// If `"module"` is not defined in package.json, the legacy parser map // is
// `{"js": "cjs", "cjs": "cjs", "mjs": "mjs"}`.
// The compartment mapper adds `{"json": "json"}` for good measure in both
// cases, although Node.js (as of version 0.14.5) does not support importing
// JSON modules from ESM.
type ParserMap = Record<Extension, Parser>;

// Extension is a file extension such as "js" for "main.js" or "" for "README".
type Extension = string;

// Parser is a union of built-in parsers for static module records.
// "mjs" corresponds to ECMAScript modules.
// "cjs" corresponds to CommonJS modules.
// "json" corresponds to JSON.
type Parser = "mjs" | "cjs" | "json";

// ModuleParserMap is a table of internal module specifiers
// to the parser that should be used, regardless of that module's
// extension.
// Node.js allows the "module" property in package.json to denote
// a file that is an ECMAScript module, regardless of its extension.
// This is the mechanism that allows the compartment mapper to respect that
// behavior.
type ModuleParserMap = Record<InternalModuleSpecifier, Parser>;

// ScopeMap is a map from internal module specifier prefixes
// like "dependency" or "@organization/dependency" to another
// compartment.
// The compartment mapper uses this to build a moduleMapHook that can dynamically
// generate entries for a compartment's moduleMap into Node.js packages that do
// not explicitly state their "exports".
// For these modules, any specifier under that prefix corresponds
// to a link into some internal module of the foreign compartment.
>> When the compartment mapper creates an archive, it captures all of the Modules
>> explicitly and erases the scopes entry.
type ScopeMap = Record<InternalModuleSpecifier, Scope>;

// Scope describes the compartment to use for all ad-hoc
// entries in the compartment's module map.
type Scope = {
  compartment: CompartmentName

// TODO everything hereafter...

// Realm describes another realm to contain one or more
// compartments.
// The default realm is frozen by lockdown with no
// powerful references.
type Realm = {
  // TODO lockdown options

// RealmName is an arbitrary identifier for realms
// for reference from any Compartment description.
// No names are reserved; the default realm has no name.
type RealmName = string;

// ModuleParameter indicates that the module does not come from
// another compartment but must be passed expressly into the
// application by the user.
// For example, the Node.js `fs` built-in module provides
// powers that must be expressly granted to an application
// and may be attenuated or limited by the compartment mapper on behalf of the
// user.
// The string value is the name of the module to be provided
// in the application's given module map.
type ModuleParameter = string;

Compartment map policies


A compartment map policy is a file that will sit beside an application that expresses what powerful objects should pass into the compartment for each package of an application.

MetaMask's LavaMoat generates a lavalmoat.config.json file that serves the same purposes, using a tool called TOFU: trust on first use.