Skype has begun embedding ads into video chat windows in the first major change to the business since its acquisition by Microsoft in May last year.
The “Conversation Ads” feature targets a user's demographic – including location, gender and age – and sits silently above the window. Skype’s monetisation specialist Sandhya Venkatachalam said the ad would not expand and would not affect call quality.
Users can opt out of some demographic use but Skype will still target ads according to location.
Venkatachalam said “users will see content that could spark additional topics of conversation that are relevant to Skyper users and highlight unique and local brand experiences".
She made no mention of whether the feature would only be limited to free users of the service, or include paid ones.
The move is set to be a controversial one for the popular video chat service, with Venture Beat calling the feature “passive-aggressive”.
Skype will serve ads from Microsoft’s advertising network, with plans for “additional commercial experiences in the future”.
Microsoft bought Skype from previous owner eBay in May last year for $US8.5 billion. Despite expectations the software giant would integrate the product into its existing products – such as Windows, Windows Phone 7 or Xbox 360 – it had done little to date to take advantage of the 170 million-strong user base.