We booked a vacation rental in Hawaii for the Christmas holiday. Only this time, we didn't use HomeAway (Nasdaq: AWAY), the booking service that aggregates properties in much the same way that Expedia and priceline.com (Nasdaq: PCLN) consolidate available hotel rooms for busy travelers booking quick stays.

You'd think that would be a problem. Why on earth would I choose to book outside the engine I've so richly praised here at Fool.com and inside our Motley Fool Rule Breakers service? Two reasons:

  1. The property we booked wasn't listed with HomeAway.com.
  2. Yet, it was both affordable and in the vicinity of where wished to stay.

And that, indeed, would be bad news if the story ended there. Fortunately it doesn't. The property manager we've since been dealing with directly -- we're planning a return trip at the end of 2012 -- uses HomeAway Connect, a free service that includes a rental calendar, guestbook, payments processor, and tax support network. Each service is integrated across the entirety of HomeAway's network of rental sites covering more than 625,000 listings.

See the beauty? Like Google, HomeAway is creating services that enhance its ability to market, and in the process is making its network more valuable for listing property managers, the audience it cares about most. As a result, revenue has grown at about the same 40% pace as priceline.com in each of the last three quarters. Margins are up over the same period.

My research found no similar alternative to HomeAway Connect offered by peers AirBnB and TripAdvisor's (Nasdaq: TRIP) FlipKey, though a new TripAdvisor analytics service called Management Dashboard promises a host of features for measuring property performance. Exactly the sort of service the industry needs, and built in the spirit of what HomeAway Connect already provides.

Therein lies the beauty of technology. There's just as much opportunity in refitting old industries as there is with creating new industries, and we're seeing more of both with the rise of cloud computing. Interested in taking advantage? The Fool recently produced a video that will help you do exactly that. Entitled "Two Words Bill Gates Doesn't Want You to Hear," the tutorial is free for a limited time. Click here before the offer expires -- it's 100% free to watch.

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