The invention of the laparoscope several decades ago has led to smaller incisions for surgery that once always required an "open" incision. However, many procedures are now able to be performed via smaller incisions. These procedures require general anesthesia (completely asleep) and tend to take a little longer than the open incisions because of specialized equipment. A large number of hernias are able to be repaired this way.
The positive side is that rather than large incisions, the surgeon is able to make very small incisions and use a camera and instruments that are on long "sticks" to perform the repair. (This is sometimes referred to as the "laser" or "arthroscope" although neither is used for hernia repair.) The incisions tend to leave much smaller scars, tend to heal more quickly, and oftentimes the initial pain is less.
The downside is that they require special equipment to perform, can take longer while you are asleep, and sometimes have to be "converted" (or changed over) to open incisions due to other factors that the surgeon and patient might not be able to control (bleeding, scar tissue from previous surgery, etc).