BOSTON -- Jeff Pulver, founder of the Voice Over Net (VON) conference, remembers the first VoIP blogging panel he assembled.
"It was two years ago during spring VON," said Pulver, himself an avid blogger. "No one came."
But like the VON show and the industry it covers, VoIP blogging has seen tremendous growth. Blogs are now a valuable source of information about technology, business strategy and regulatory climate. Several VoIP bloggers participated in a well-attended panel session here at VON late Tuesday.
Top-tier bloggers are now treated like something akin to industry analysts, said Andy Abramson, editor of VoIPWatch and moderator of the session.
That attention will only intensify in the wake of eBay's multi-billion-dollar acquisition offer for Skype and a slew of other VoIP-related M&As in recent months.
"Many of us have been asked to take briefings not only with upstarts but with household names," Abramson said. "We express a viewpoint and blogs influence thinking. It's definitely a rapid deployment force to get information out and get action. "
Abramson continued, "Every company that matters now has a blogging strategy. They know people are reading. It's not how many people are reading, it's who is reading."
With that increased influence comes more responsibility, said Tom Evslin, blogger and founder of ITXC and Evslin Consulting.
"We can make a difference in the way we live and the way we deal with catastrophes," said Evslin, who noted VoIP successes and failures after Hurricane Katrina.
Most of the bloggers on the panel identified the current merger and acquisition frenzy as the industry's top trend.
"The next year will be the year of mega-mergers," said Mark Evans, a senior technology reporter for the National Post who also writes a VoIP blog. "[Subsequent acquisitions] will make us look at eBay and Skype as minimal."
Evans predicts Google and Microsoft, which have both made VoIP moves recently, each have a multi-billion-dollar acquisition coming in the next year.
Regulation is another hot topic. Many -- including Pulver -- have railed against the Federal Communication Commission's mandate that VoIP customers acknowledge shortcomings of their 911 service or be disconnected.
Evslin said imposing legacy telecom regulations on VoIP could put the United States at a competitive disadvantage. "It's not our birthright to lead," he said.
The regulation picture is sunnier elsewhere, said James Seng, assistant director of IDA Singapore, and a blogger on the VON panel.
In Singapore and some other Asia-Pacific countries, VoIP firms have interconnection rights and aren't subject to quality-of-service and 911 requirements, he said.