The Darknet Search Engine ‘Grams’ is Shutting Down

In 2014, a developer launched Grams, a darknet market search engine. Grams quickly caught on and picked up attention from mainstream tech sites. The site became a useful resource for markets, buyers, journalists, and researchers. In mid-December, 2017, the Grams developer will end Grams and all associated services. The site will be missed.

The developer, known only as “gramsadmin,” posted a message on the darknetmarkets subreddit. “So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish,” the title of the message read. The title itself is an informal and somewhat humorous way of saying goodbye that first appeared in the comedic science fiction book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. “I write to you all today with heavy heart,” the Grams developer said in the message. “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.”

Although the “best services on the darknet” may vary from person-to-person, the majority of the 100 or more users who commented on the post expressed some form of disappointment after reading the admin’s decision. Or, at the very least, they thanked gramsadmin for his dedication to the community. Some asked the developer to stick around. One user wrote that we needed Grams more now than ever.

“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion” — a quote from Albert Camus that sat at the bottom of the Grams homepage.

Two services provided by Grams—Grams Infodesk and Grams Helix—stood out in dozens of comments as the services users will likely miss the most. Both features help users accomplish completely different tasks. Infodesk helps buyers verify a vendor’s identity across numerous marketplaces by scraping the markets or through implementation of the Grams API. And Helix is one of the only services that could be considered a glorified Bitcoin tumbler or mixer. Helix itself is actually more than a Bitcoin tumbler; gramsadmin called it “the definitive darknet bitcoin cleaner.” However, Grams is not the only darknet search engine (nor does Grams offer the only Bitcoin tumbler).

But Grams, with an emphasis on the search and Infodesk, may be one of the only darknet search engines recognized in international drug research publications. The Global Drug Policy Observatory, in The Rise and Challenge of Dark Net Drug Markets, said Grams “has transformed how people can search the hidden web and access the vendors by name without having to log onto various sites.” Constantly managing the information from numerous sites became too much of a pain for the Grams team to continue doing. In the recent past, the Infodesk vendor reviews switched to only serving reviews from the darknetmarkets subreddit.

In the announcement on Reddit, gramsadmin wrote, “it has become too difficult to get the listings from the markets and to keep up on even routine maintenance of the site.” The admin struggled with getting market listings since the search engine’s inception. Not every marketplace worked to implement the Grams API. And gramsadmin found spidering every large marketplace too resource intensive. Gramsadmin said that Grams Helix and Helix Light rarely even broke. The high Bitcoin transaction fees cut the profits earned by the tumbler/cleaner. The admin added, “the money is not worth the stress of maintaining the site.”