Updated: April 7, 2016
Approx. three to four years ago, I wrote an article telling you how to remove the pesky Home screen and disable ads. The highlight of the previous guide was in changing your language settings to a user-defined one, as the company had no ads targeted at a geographically and culturally undefined demographics.
A lot has changed since. Skype has incremented its version to 7.X, we have Windows 10, there's more forced integration of commercially-flavored online features, and lo and behold, my quiet and peaceful Skype was showing ads all of a sudden, at the top of each and every conversation screen. This won't do. After me.
New and more stringent methods
Remember the movie Dirty Rotten Scoundrels? Ah, a classic. Remember the scene where Dr. Schaffhausen tries to assess if Freddie has lost sensation in his legs, and then says, "We must try somezing else. Somezing a little more stringent." Like that.
The thing is, as always, I would not mind ads if they were placed with style and elegance. But you have these rotating image banners on the very top of each chat window. Quite distracting. Flash ads, no less. A possible security risk. Shitty ads. And sometimes, you lose chat window focus and there's a momentary lag slash stutter as Skype computes this new diarrhea. That won't do.
Previously, we only fiddled with what Skype does. Now we will curtail its Internet access. Skype is essentially a Microsoft product, and that means the standard Internet Explorer security settings also apply. In other words, we will place the Skype ads site into the Restricted sites zone, and this will prevent Skype from downloading crap into your chat windows.
You can get to the right menu either through Control Panel > Internet Options, or through Internet Explorer, possibly Edge too, then Tools > Internet Options. Either one works. Then, select the Security tab. Click on Restricted sites.
And add the following to the list:
You may also want to block MSN ads, but I found out this subset is good enough, and I recommend not doing more than necessary to get the desired result, in order to minimize complications and changes.
Test Skype, see what gives
A restart of the application is not really required, as the program will fail to pull more ads once it tries to rotate to the new one, but if you want to be all dandy and punctual, you might as well do that. You should now see a generic placeholder rather than crap.
Optional: Remove ads placeholder
If you're really anal about having a clean chat interface, you can also get rid of that square thingie. This is done by editing the Skype configuration (config.xml), stored inside your user profile. To wit, head yonder:
C:\Users\<Windows user name>\AppData\Roaming\Skype\<skype id>
Open the file config.xml in a text editor, and search for the string AdvertPlaceholder. Change the value in the XML directive from 1 to 0. It will be gone, and you don't need to restart Skype, but you can, to be on the safe side.
And then, beauty and serenity:
This solution is not without side effects. You won't be able to use the Home screen, but then you probably aren't, if you're reading this article, as you've used the methods outlined in my previous email to get rid of it a long time ago. Moreover, the status of your friends may not always be fully accurate - I didn't have this problem but a few folks have complained, so I'm highlighting it here.
I am not sure if this is related to the URL blocking, the Home screen functionality, or how well Skype manages or updates contact info from the remote servers and peers, or an issue with how some people have their system set up, but this is something that could affect you. Fully reversible.
Do note you cannot just remove the ads placeholder without blocking the ads. That won't do. Skype will reinstate the placeholder if it's allowed to connect to the ads URL and grab content. So you must use both if you wish the little ads rectangle gone.
Skype is still probably the most prolific and useful VoIP program on the market. But its levels of annoyances are growing by the day, influenced by the touch desperation and Microsoft's push into the online world. And most likely, the rather mediocre Windows 10, as we've seen in my recent reviews, is the driver behind all this intrusive crap. Only people are thixotropic. The harder you push the more they resist.
And so, we have another little workaround that lets us retain our emotional peace while still continuing to use the superlative qualities of Skype. Until someone comes around and creates a suitable alternative. Or Microsoft - or anyone else - finally designs ads that are actually useful, intelligent and valuable, and not created for morons. Ignoring the markets ups and down, given the fact you must use Skype, then you can do that with less stupidity polluting your personal space. This tutorial gives you a couple of tricks toward that goal.