There's a small hotel

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Can the impersonal techno-sprawl of the Internet deliver the personal touch associated with the B&B crowd? Up to now, the answer to that question would have been no.

This week, though, two developments indicate that those gingerbread-clad houses run by apple-cheeked couples have skipped ahead a century. Stowe, Vt.-based startup Inntopia launched an online booking system for small hotels and Internet hotel reservations bigshot WorldRes bought up Golden Colo.-based BedandBreakfast.com.

With a huge pool of properties to choose from, these two deals look like the beginning of a trend. And, for the proprietors of these quaint little hostels, I'm glad. But it seems like the end of an era. No more glossy brochures? No more "when we spoke on the phone you said your husband likes pie, so I baked one"?

What's next? An Internet-investing seminar before supper followed by a friendly game of Doom?

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