February 20, 2022

Affiliate marketing has been around for longer than you think.

It didn’t just start with the invention of the internet, although that is where it really started to gain ground and take off. Let’s take a look at how the history of affiliate marketing – how it developed and how it is different today from when it originally started.


The History Of Affiliate Marketing Begins Before The Internet

Affiliate marketing has come to be known as something that happens online. You click a link, which directs you to a page or a product online, and then the link owner gets paid a small amount for that click. But it can also refer to things like when a mechanic gives a customer a discount for referring them to a new customer. The person who is doing the referring is getting paid by getting a discount towards their purchase. It is the same concept, just in the real world. This kind of affiliate marketing is used, but not traced as much as online links. You can ask your customer where they heard about you in an effort to learn more about where your clients are coming from, but in the end, you don’t have all the data like you would through an online tracking link. The internet has made this kind of marketing more profitable and easier to expand your business. So while the history of affiliate marketing really started before the internet, it’s the internet that made this marketing strategy widely available as a business model to the masses.

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The Introduction Of The Web

When the internet came around, it was a totally new concept. Who had ever thought that with just a couple clicks you could be connected to the whole world? The internet made this possible. Suddenly, you didn’t have to rely on your geographical area anymore to be able to make a sale. You could sell to anyone in any part of the country. This made the whole process a lot more exciting and interesting and took things to a whole new level. New marketing techniques had to be developed to incorporate all the different areas of the country. Shipping options had to be explored.

The Affiliate Marketing Patent

The patent for affiliate marketing as we know it today was granted to William J. Tobin in 1989. He is a pioneer in the history of affiliate marketing and kicked things off, especially in the online world. He set up the first affiliate marketing program ever for his company PC Flowers & Gifts. Mr. Tobin started off his life running his own lawn mowing business with equipment purchased for him by his mother. He later joined the Army and afterward got a business degree from Adelphi University. He went on to create several startup companies, which eventually led to PC Flowers & Gifts. They are known for setting up affiliate marketing for today’s floral company FTD, who delivers a good chunk of flower orders across the country. Mr. Tobin created the framework for what we have come to know as the history of affiliate marketing as well as modern day affiliate marketing. It has changed a bit over the years, but the basic concept is still the same.


Amazon was the first company to use affiliate marketing as a program that was available to the general public. Their system known as Associates Program allowed people to sign up to be able to offer links on their website. It was launched in 1996. As a result of sharing the links to Amazon’s products, the user was paid a small amount of money in return for referring new customers. In the history of affiliate marketing, Amazon was the first major company to widely use affiliate marketing as one of their marketing platforms. This became the model for other affiliate companies to base their programs on, and the growth of affiliate marketing continues even today.

The Invention Of Cookies

Cookies were added to the web to track what users were doing and this changed the history of affiliate marketing forever. They are tiny pieces of data that are stored in the user’s browser in order to help the browser track what you are doing. This can be helpful if you’d like to return to what you were doing, or if you’d like to remember something. But it is mostly useful for outside third parties to have data about how people are using their website and information. The invention of cookies made affiliate marketing even better because people could track where the information was coming from, giving them more clues about what works and what doesn’t work. Just in case you were wondering, cookies get their name from a web browser programmer named Lou Montulli. He started calling them cookies, which comes from the term “magic cookies”. Magic cookies are known as small packets of data that are sent and received in an unchanged manner, not to be confused with fortune cookies that come with an embedded message that is relevant to the information.

The First Affiliate Networks

In 1998, Commission Junction and Clickbank opened their doors for business and they still remain among the most popular affiliate networks in the history of affiliate marketing. These affiliate networks made it possible for smaller businesses that aren’t a part of Amazon to get in on the affiliate action. The merchants could pay a small fee to belong to the network and then the network would pay people to use the links to the different products. It helped businesses expand their reach and other people to get paid for helping with the process. It is really a cool idea that can be implemented in lots of different places. Today, there are quite a few affiliate networks available.

Up To Date

Today, the way that things worked have changed slightly, but the same basic concept is the same. The internet had grown and changed and will continue to do so. The only way to stay on top of this is to keep up to date with the latest trends. Staying informed will help you stay ahead of your game and allow you to get a jump on business. Pay attention and you’ll stay on top of the game.

If you are looking for real tips and tricks from real affiliate marketers, turn to Affiliate Marketing Training. We’ve got the information you are looking for to help you stay on top of your game. Take your marketing to the next level and reach more clients than ever with our help.

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