In 2014, a plucky upstart search engine called Grams launched on the dark web. With a clean interface and a logo in primary colors, it was clearly a tribute to Google's homepage; with distinctly more adult-focused results. Its goal was to index the dark corners of the web and provide a searchable interface that pulled in results from many of the different dark marketplaces. You still had to register and sign up (if required) with vendors that you discovered through their results, but it was a useful way to index and trawl what's available.
Grams was also a great way to analyze dark web data; in 2015 Quartz reporter Keith Collins analyzed the cost of drugs online using Grams search engine data. His insights included that one gram of cocaine was mostly sold for under $50, that there were 2,007 listings for one gram of MDMA, with a median price of $37.07, and that it was common to buy 30-packs of 30mg of Adderall, for a median price of $183.46.
But now the era of easy darknet indexing has come to an end.
In a Reddit post titled, "So long and thanks for all the fish," (a Douglas Adama reference, FYI) the admin of Grams announced the closure of the website.
"It has been a wild ride. I write to you all today with heavy heart. I have decided to take down Grams and all its' services one week from now. I have tried very hard to provide the best services on the darknet. Lately it has been more difficult to do this. It has become too difficult to get the listings from the markets and to keep up on even routine maintenance of the site. I have had a hard year personally and financially.
This decision was not an easy one, but I believe it is what is best for me. I hope for nothing but the best for all of you in the darknet world. I will give all our users a week to withdrawal their funds from their accounts. Helix Light will be disabled 24 hours before shutdown. This provides ample time for any late transactions to go through before the shutdown. Any bitcoin left on the site after Grams is shut down on 16-12-2017 will be sent to several donation sites. If you would like to suggest any sites that accept bitcoins and are worthy of donations please do so below in the comments. Stay safe out there!
Fans are unhappy to see this go, and on prodding, the admin revealed that its costs, not law enforcement that has preempted this decision.
"Competitors have taken a lot of my business from the tumbling and with the high fees per transaction lately it is hard to even break even. The money is not worth the stress of maintaining the site," the Grams admin wrote.
Over time, Grams evolved into more than just s search engine, offering tools such as Infodesk, which helped verify vendors identity across platforms and Helix, a bitcoin tumbler.
Darkweb users do have other options, but it's hard not to see the end of Grams as a signifier that the end of net neutrality is having repercussions across the board. Grams, for all its faults, help democratize access to the darknet and its variances, and for that, it will be missed.