Blockchain Commons’ specifications are built to support an architectural design for independent and resilient ownership of digital assets, following the Gordian Principles. This architecture is called The Gordian Architecture, an overall plan for interoperable specifications and design patterns. The ultimate goal is to prevent vendor lock-in and to remove the threats of single points of compromise, failure, and denial so that users can personally protect their self-sovereign digital assets without the fear of loss.

As Above, So Below: the Gordian Architecture comes in two parts. At the high level, the Macro-Architecture envisions the overall shape of digital-asset services, but it depends on a numbers of specifications and designs, including Data Formats, Sovereign & Social Recovery systems, and UX Design.

Open Development

Specifications and libraries that come into widespread, interoperable use ultimately require a system of Open Development that goes beyong Open Source to span a larger timeframe (ranging from Strategy to Support) and a larger community (ranging from the Developers themselves through Publishers and Users).

See Open Development for more.


The Gordian Macro-architecture is built on a design pattern of functional partition.

Rather than following the design pattern of classic services, which group multiple services into singular applications, the Gordian Architecture instead separates both services and confidential data from each other. Doing so improves privacy and security by reducing the value of honeypots and also improves functional design by ensuring that each application is precisely and concisely able to perform a specific function. Many of the Gordian reference apps are actually microservices, intended to perform small and simple but necessary activities as part of the blockchain ecosystem.

Using functionally partitioned services, the Gordian architecture creates a powerful and safe new methodology for financial, data, and information operations on the internet. It also creates an ecosystem that allows for the inclusion of multiple developers, each producing their own applications that are all interoperable thanks to usage of Blockchain Commons’ interoperable specifications. This improves the overall architecture through these competitive designs and ensures survivability of the model as a whole.

  • Service. A service that fulfills some large-scale need for digital-asset management, most commonly the ability to store private information, create transactions, sign transactions, or send transactions. Examples: Gordian Seed Tool (signing device), Gordian Coordinator (transaction coordinator).

  • Microservice. A service that fulfills a small need in the overall Gordian ecosystem such as price lookups. Examples: SpotBit.

Please see Gordian Architecture Roles for examples of what functions can be partitioned as part of the Gordian Macro-architecture and Gordian Arhitecture Apps for reference examples of these roles. Also see the Gordian Lexicon for a full set of terms.

Macro-Architectural Transport

With a properly partitioned ecosystem, the transport & communication methodology among services becomes less important. Nonetheless, some transport methods may improve privacy and security.

  • Networked. The standard methodology for transport: direct network communications, presumably encryped with TLS for security.

  • AirGap. A physical gap between services or microservices, where either side might not even be networked. This improves the security of the non-networked side of the communication, as it will not be vulnerable to network attacks. A service protected by an AirGap communicates through the reading of QR Codes or through transmission of data on MicroSD cards, NFC tags, or other removable media. See our Airgap Overview.

  • TorGap. A link between services or microservices that connect via Tor. Though both services likely remain fully networked, they are anonymous to each other. This improves privacy and also deters network attacks due to the anonymity. See our Torgap Overview.

Supporting Specifications

The Gordian Architecture is supported by a variety of specifications:

  • Data Format — Uniform Resources, Envelope, Bytewords, and other data formats are focused primarily on openness and independence.
  • Seed Recovery — Helping users to preserve their seeds through methodologies like Collaborative Seed Recovery is all about improving the resilience of digital assets.
  • UX — Improvements to UX such as Lifehash improves the resilience and independence of digital assets by empowering users.

Reference Apps

Reference apps are exemplar programs meant to show how the Gordian architecture and its specifications are meant to work, as demonstrations for developers. Our most up-to-date and supported reference apps include:

  • Gordian Seed Tool — An example of a seed vault and signing device, demonstrating how airgaps work.
  • Gordian Coordinator — An example of an on-network transaction coordinator, connected to airgapped devices such as Gordian Seed Tool. (Pending.)
  • SpotBit — An example of a TorGapped microservice, providing pricing services.

Please see Gordian Architecture Apps for a more complete list of apps past and present. Please see Gordian Architure Roles for examples of what functions can be partitioned as part of the Gordian Macro-architecture.

Design Patterns

Any architecture is built on design patterns: building blocks that solve common problems in specific ways. Design patterns are a part of the Blockchain Commons design philosophy. We’ve currently outlined one set of design patterns, on Authentication & Authorization and in particular how they create security through homogeneity.

How the Gordian Architecture Supports Gordian Principles

The Gordian Architecture supports the four Gordian Principles as follows:

  • Independence. Users can choose which applications to use within an open ecosystem.
  • Privacy. The partioning of services reduces data collation. Even stronger protections can be created by Airgaps and Torgaps.
  • Resilience. The paritioned design minimizes Single Points of Compromise.
  • Openness. Standard specifications such as UR allow anyone to connect to the ecosystem.

Why We Do This:

Further Explanations:

Architectural Nodes:

Architectural Edges:

Design Patterns:

Self-Sovereign Identity: