Skype announced today that Windows users of its popular voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service who do not possess Skype Credit or subscriptions will be subjected to silent visual advertisements dubbed “Conversation Ads” when making one-to-one audio calls. The move follows last year’s buyout of Skype by Microsoft for a reported US$8.5 billion.

The new advertisements work in the following way: While engaged in a Skype audio call, a silent advertisement which uses demographic data such as location, gender and age will pop up on a user's screen. For example, one may be chatting to a friend from college and the hip marketing people would then supply a helpful ad for beer, or iPods, or whatever else young and fun people like to buy nowadays. In this way, the conversation will thus be steered into a more profitable direction ... or that’s the idea, anyway. Perhaps Skype is taking its cue from Microsoft’s own advertising wizards.

The company laid out its thoughts on Conversation Ads in an official blog post:

“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. Ultimately, we believe this will help make Skype a more engaging and useful place to have your conversations each and every day.”

It should be noted that Conversation Ads is relatively benign compared to many other ad platforms, and while advertisers will be able to purchase the ads in 55 markets where Skype is available, they will not be allowed to monitor user's calls. Privacy-conscious users can opt-out of the ad-targeting via the Privacy menu, located in Tools > Options.

There’s currently no word as to if, or when, Skype will roll out Conversation Ads to Mac and Linux users.

Editor's note: This article was amended on June 14, 2012. It previously stated that Microsoft bought Skype for $85 million.

Source: Skype