Stylish, an add-on for browsers such as Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and Safari, announced this week through the voice of its new owner a new data collection partnership with SimilarWeb, a digital market intelligence company.
According to Justin Hindman, Stylish's new owner as of October 2016, the add-on will share anonymized user data with SimilarWeb, a company that provides data analytics and market insight for various online services.
Hindman says that he needed to partner with SimilarWeb due to a lack of resources and need to improve suggestions for the type of "styles" users could apply to a web page.
"When I first started working on Stylish, I understood that this product is incredible, but in order to bring it to its full potential, it would require a tremendous amount of resources I just don’t have," Hindman explained. "Realizing this made me start looking for a partner that would be a natural fit with Stylish, adding value and helping me achieve my vision for this amazing Product."
"SimilarWeb has a lot of experience with web products and offers much-needed resources, experience, and data including visibility into which are the most popular websites in each country, information that can help us decide which styles to create," Hindman added. "On top of that, SimilarWeb sees the great value of the Stylish community, helping it to better understand the digital world. I believe that together we will bring Stylish to its full potential!"
The good news is that Hindman provided an opt-out option in the extension's settings panel. The anonymous data collection system comes turned on by default in all new installations.
Tech journalist Martin Brinkmann noticed that the new data collection system appears to be in place only in the Chrome extension, and not the Firefox add-on, which hasn't been updated since the summer of 2016. The Safari and Opera extensions have not received this update either.
Stylish is a browser extension that allows users to superimpose custom CSS styles on top of websites and create custom skins. The Chrome and Firefox add-ons are currently deployed on nearly 2 million browsers, making Stylish one of the most popular add-ons today.
Web organizations, such as Chrome, Firefox, and many other more often collect anonymized user data to improve their services. The difference is that these organizations have in-depth reports [1, 2] about what type of data they collect.
Article was updated on January 5 with Mr. Hindman's response.