Stylish add-on makes a return

Stylish, a web browser extension to load so-called userstyles in supported browsers that modify looks and layout of webpages, has returned to the official Mozilla Add-ons Store for Firefox after its removal by Mozilla over privacy concerns.

Stylish, which was removed by Google from the company’s Chrome Web Store as well at the time, was found to send a user’s complete browsing history to servers operated by the company and linked the data to a unique ID.

Stylish and the accompanying userstyles.org site were transferred to a new owner back in 2016 by its original creator. The new owner, apparently, sold the extension and domain then to analytics company SimilarWeb in 2017.

A new version of Stylish is now again available on Mozilla’s Addons website. The new version comes without release notes which makes it difficult to find out what changed.

If you compare the current description of Stylish on Mozilla’s website with the description of Stylish before it was pulled, you will notice that a note about privacy and data collecting has been added to the description:

We care about your privacy and thus it is important to us that you understand our data practices:

Stylish provides you with services that include the suggestion of and access to relevant styles for web pages you visit, as well as the install count for each style. In order to enable this service, we collect browsing data, as detailed in our privacy policy: https://userstyles.org/login/policy

The browsing usage data collected includes: visited URLs, your Internet Protocol address, your operating system and the browser you are using, and the date and time stamp.

The data collected is not collected nor used to allow the identification of any individual user, and you may always opt-out from this automatic data collection in the add-on option page.

The description reveals to users that Stylish does collect information to provide some of the functionality of the service.

Did anything else change? You may notice that all but the latest version of the extension are removed from the versions listing. Did Mozilla remove these when it banned Stylish, or did the developers of Stylish remove those? I don’t know and there is no information on the page that provides that answer.

stylish new privacy

If you are brave enough to install Stylish in Firefox, you will notice that the extension has a new welcome screen that pops up automatically after installation.

It displays three options, all opt-in, on the page:

  • Share usage analytics — sends analytics data to Stylish.
  • Styles on-the-go — Powers the style recommendation feature, submits URLs to the server if enabled.
  • Access styles through search results — Same as Styles on-the-go, but for search results pages.

It is not necessary to enable any of those to use Stylish. If you don’t opt-in to the second and third option you won’t get recommendations automatically.

Note that Stylish has yet to make a return in the Chrome Web Store. It seems likely that the extension will resurface on Chrome’s official Web Store as well in the near future.

Closing Words

We don’t know if Mozilla reviewed the new Stylish version or not. The organization does not indicate human reviewed extensions in any way on the site. If Stylish has not been reviewed by a human, it is possible that the extension may get pulled again when that happens; we don’t know.

Stylish is a popular extension and the changes made are welcome changes. It remains to be seen if the company can regain the trust of users or if Stylish users stick to alternatives such as Stylus instead.

Now You: What is your take on the development?

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