is considerable debate concerning the true beginnings of Internet
Affiliate Programs. Backers of the popular Amazon.com Affiliate Program
have proudly proclaimed that they were the first website to successfully
implement a functioning affiliate program.
As legend has it, Jeff Bezos, CEO and founder of Amazon.com, chatted
with a woman at a cocktail party about how she wanted to sell books
about divorce on her website. After that exchange, Bezos pondered
the idea and thought about having the woman link her site to Amazon.com
and receive a commission on the book sales. This was the impetus for
creating the so-called "first on the Web" Amazon.com Associates
Program which was launched in July 1996. In the Program, Amazon.com
pays 15% on more than 400,000 titles and 5% on more than 1.1 million
additional titles, CDs and other products.
But according to Daniel Gray in "The Complete Guide to Associate
and Affiliate Programs on the Net," there were a number of sites
that operated affiliate-type programs prior to July 1996. Many more
mushroomed and flourished in the succeeding years. Among them were
PC Flowers & Gifts.com (October 1994), S2.com (summer 1994), AutoWeb.com
(October 1995), Kbkids.com/BrainPlay.com (January 1996), EPage (April
1996), and a handful of others. And that is just the mainstream side
of it. There are also many adult sites that dabbled in the affiliate
marketing concept before Amazon.com picked it up.
The early challenge that faced the first proponents of affiliate marketing
was the building of an efficient and credible tracking system. This
system is actually considered the nerve center of any Affiliate Program.
Affiliate program pioneers first used spreadsheets, then full-blown
tracking systems that enabled operators to efficiently trace and credit
the referring websites.
It is common knowledge that adult sites came up with many of the best
(and worst) marketing concepts that are now used on the mainstream
web. Affiliate Programs, coercive-click conversion, community publishing,
pay-for-view content and streaming video are some of the online marketing
models that were spawned by the creativity and innovativeness of the
Soon webmasters saw the earning
opportunities presented by affiliate programs and they scrambled to
join these programs which they would find by word of mouth and through
During this time, a few webmasters thought of a more efficient way
to help people find the affiliate programs they wanted to join. With
this, the Affiliate Directory site was born.
James Marciano founded Refer-it.com in October 1997 because he could
not find one central place to research affiliate programs to generate
revenue for his site, TheSquare.com. He decided what was needed was
a search engine for affiliate programs with ratings and details.
In January 1998, Allan Gardyne started up a one-page associate programs
directory. He hunted in every major search engine for an affiliate
program directory and could not find one, so he started his own. That
one-page site became AssociatePrograms.com in February 1998. Other
important players, such as 2-Tier, Associate-it, CashPile.com, and
ReveNews.com, launched later in 1998.
The landscape of affiliate program directories has become a bit overwhelming
in the past years. An estimated 50 directories are trying to direct
traffic in the affiliate space, but it all started with Refer-it.com.
As directory sites continued to flourish in the late 1990s, a demand
emerged for a more holistic and total affiliate program provider.
Webmasters wanted a site that not only listed affiliate programs,
but also matched them with "compatible" merchants.
Thus, the so-called affiliate solution providers came into being.
Also called Affiliate Networks, or "affiliate brokers,"
they act as mediators between affiliates and merchant web sites. They
track all activity, arrange all payment, and help affiliates set up
the necessary links on their web site.
Affiliate networks came into being in 1996 with the launch of LinkShare
and Be Free. Commission Junction (CJ) started up in 1998 and soon
became a leader in Affiliate Network operations. Microsoft's BCentral
also has a program that operates as an affiliate network and integrates
this with various other online marketing and software services.
Signup now and start earning big bucks.