Microsoft's Skype for Windows: Now with 'conversation ads'

Microsoft's Skype for Windows: Now with 'conversation ads'

Summary: There's a way to opt out of at least some of the location, gender and age-based ad-targeting that is coming tot those using for free Microsoft's Skype for Windows.

TOPICS: Windows

New display ads are coming to Skype for Windows.

Called "Conversation Ads," the new ads will appear in calling windows of users who are using Skype Audio (not Video) for free -- in other words, who haven't paid for Skype Credit or subscriptions.

From a June 13 post on the official Skype blog:

"While on a 1:1 audio call, users will see content that could spark additional topics of conversation that are relevant to Skype users and highlight unique and local brand experiences. So, you should think of Conversation Ads as a way for Skype to generate fun interactivity between your circle of friends and family and the brands you care about."

The fine print notes that Skype is using "non-personally identifiable demographic information" like location, gender and age, to deliver targeted ads. In other words, The Skype team seemingly isn't listening to your conversation about where to go for dinner and sending you ads for a vegan burger joint near you.

The good news for those who don't find targeted ads something that spurs fun conversations among them and their cohorts: Skype for Windows users can opt out of allowing Skype to use at least some of this information. Go to the Privacy menu in Tools and choose "Options" in Skype for Windows.

"If the user opts-out, they will still receive advertisements relevant to their location, but Skype will not use other demographic information for this purpose. To opt-out of the use of non-personally identifiable information by our Ad Serving Partners for the purpose of serving advertisements of greater interest to you please visit Microsoft Advertising at Or you can visit the websites of the Network Advertising Initiative or the Digital Advertising Alliance, each of which provides a simple way to opt-out of ad targeting from participating companies."

Microsoft is allowing advertisers to buy ads in 55 markets.

Microsoft officials hinted last year that it wouldn't be long before the company began attempting to monetize Skype. One suggestion was to charge for Skype video archiving and authentication.

Update: Reader Christophe Bossan (@Tolor_) noted that Skype actually announced that these kinds of ads were coming to Skype audio calls back in September 2011. He's right: Skype 5.6 for Windows supposedly included in-call advertising for at least some subset of  users. (I'm thinking this was the pilot for today's announcement.)

I've never noticed an ad when using Skype audio. But then again, I don't really see ads anymore when doing anything online. I just don't notice them. But the way Skype is planning to present Conversation Ads would make them pretty hard to miss....

Topic: Windows


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • I guess it's time to find an alternative...

    About 95% of the time that I talk to my overseas wife via Skype, the video connection is nearly useless because of poor data throughput. She wanted to send me a picture the other day and had to disconnect video chat to do it. Dozens of times during each conversation, I have to close a pop-up window warning me that the connection is too weak to support a quality video signal. Duh, as if the blurry outline of my wife wasn't obvious enough. Pushing any sort of advertising through such a constricted pipe will make the service completely unusable.

    Do they also plan to do this crap with the mobile versions so it eats up data plans all the quicker?
    • You need good Internet connection

      The Internet connection between you two is the major factor not because of Skype, Apple, Yahoo, Google or anyone else. Internet subscribers don't get a lot of upload bps from ISP eventhough download speed is plenty. You can't drive even at 20mph when you're stuck in a traffic jam.
  • Just to clarify a few things before the trolls arrive ...

    The ads are for audio only calls. (Who stares at the skype screen while on a audio only call ?)
    If you have a subscription there are no ads. Even $1 worth of skype credit is enough to get rid of the ads.

    Edit: Free services need to make money somehow.
    The biggest free service provider makes majority of its income from online ads.
    • The screenshot shows otherwise

      Look above, the screen shot shows an ad alongside a video call.

      What happens if one person has Skype credit but the other does not? I do, my wife does not. Skype is going to lose the $40-60 per months I spend with them if ads gimp the service to a completely unusable state.
      • That is not a video call ...

        It is the account picture of the contact with whom the audio call is going on ....

        You can even see the crossed out camera icon.
        • yes it did

          just had a video call and i had an add pop up
          so i guess they are going to target video calls if your connections are good
          had that pissy virgin one poup
      • that is outrageous!

        M$ peeping Toms are listening to your conversation and displaying contextual ads . Just imagine what kind of ads are shown when cursing or doing pillow talk. The FCC must step in and ban this invasion of privacy and the ads for escort services and erection pills.
        The Linux Geek
      • OK, never mind

        I don't ever do Skype-to-Skype audio only. It's either text chat or video chat Skype-to-Skype, or Skype-to-phone audio.
      • huh?

        That's a video call? I think the problem is M$ is in control, so people are desperate to find an issue, like the non existing "video" call.
        Just move on to a better service that gives you free calling w/o ads.
        good luck.
  • Mary, it is exactly what the Admen want you to see.

    "But then again, I don???t really see ads anymore when doing anything online. I just don???t notice them"

    But they still go into your brain then guide that buying choice.
    Alan Smithie
    • She DOES notice them...maybe not conciously, but the ads do have an effect

      Alan, I was going to comment on exactly the same thing! I think it's actually a little bit spooky sinice I've read some of the research overviews, heard some interesting interviews, and seen a couple demonstrations -- all about how relatively easy it is to manipulate the human mind to 'think' of certain people, ideas, brands, products, feelings, etc. in particular situations -- and all with the subject completely unaware that their 'concious' response was predicted with extreme accuracy based on the subject's unconcious exposures -- they had no sensation that their response had already been determined!
      • Subliminal advertising does not work

        as research has shown. It is ineffectual. The guy that 'invented' subliminal advertising (flashing of adverts hidden in film) admitted falsifying his data. I have no fear of adverts I don't see. Most people have trouble remembering stuff they DO see. But having said that, it is typical of the evolution of the internet that when something good comes along, some money-grabbing leech poisons it.
  • Getting dizzy from all the corporate spin!

    "you should think of Conversation Ads as a way for Skype to generate fun interactivity between your circle of friends and family and the brands you care about."

    Nice spin, Microsoft. Of COURSE you should think of conversation ads that way. Same with TV ads and billboards. Don't think of them as attempts to sell you something; advertising doesn't work as well when the target audience starts to think on their own!
  • side by side vs overlay

    The side ad isn't horrible. I hate the overlay ads that we are now seeing in YouTube.
  • Figures

    I will stick with Google Voice!
    • Google voice?

      I didn't even that was still a thing.
  • Microsoft Flubs it again!!!

    Figures Microsoft would get a hold of something great, like Skype and eff it all up. Just like this POS Windows 8 they are trying to market. A pity really, with all Microsoft's market power, they could really do great things, but they keep tripping over their own d??k with every step.

    I wonder if I keep on Skype 4.7 if I can avoid a lot of these problems.
    • Nothing in life is free

      You can't get a bottle of water for free, except at home or a friend. Maybe you can get your friends to pay for you a Skype subscription????
      • Free glass of water

        Free glass of water, if you ask - LOL.
      • Free Water???? Slight Rant

        There is no such thing as "Free Water" and this kind of thinking is just what is causing the Water and Wastewater infrastructure to be sorely lacking in needed upgrades. In some parts of the world it is non-exsistant. When one starts to think of a product, in the case of water-the most important product, as "free" and a right, there is no way to fund the services and the infrastructure upgrades necessary to insure its existance. Now in the case of Skype, it's existance is not vital to civilization. So what I am objecting to is not the thrust of your argument, but rather the example you used. (I am a water and wastewater treatment guy and I really get upset when people start thinking that somehow your faucet and your crapper are just there for free). For ever every gallon of water you get from your tap, it costs around $8.00 to build a plant to produce that one gallon of water. For every gallon of water you flush down the drain, it costs just to build the plant to treat it between $6 and $100 per gallon to for the plant. Think about those numbers when you turn on the faucet or take a crap.