The concept of affiliate marketing on the Internet was patented in 1996. It was 22 January, 1996 when William J. Tobin, the founder of PC Flowers & Gifts, applied for a patent on tracking and affiliate marketing; he was issued U.S. Patent number 6,141,666 on October 31, 2000. Tobin also received Japanese Patent number 4,021,941 on October 5, 2007 and U.S. Patent number 7,505,913 on March 17, 2009 for affiliate marketing and tracking.
The translation of revenue share principles to mainstream e-commerce happened almost four years after the origination of the World Wide Web.
How did it all begin? The history of affiliate marketing
In 1994, Tobin launched a beta version of PC Flowers & Gifts on the Internet in cooperation with IBM, who owned half of the business. Tobin developed and put into practice the concept of affiliate marketing, and by 1995 PC Flowers & Gifts launched a commercial version of the website and had 2,600 affiliate marketing partners on the World Wide Web.
Other companies followed after. In November 1994, CDNow, one of the pioneering online retailers, launched its BuyWeb program. CDNow put into practice the idea that music-oriented websites could make it possible for visitors to look through reviews or lists of albums on their pages thus making visitors more interested in purchasing. These websites could also offer a link that allowed visitors to purchase the albums through the CDNow service.
The online bookstore Amazon launched its associate program in July 1996. Amazon associates could place banner or text links for individual books on their sites, or a direct link to the Amazon home page. When visitors were redirected from the associate’s website to Amazon and then purchased a book, the associate received a commission. It is worth noting that Amazon was not the first merchant who offered an affiliate program in its classical sense, but its program was the first one that became widely known and served as a model for subsequent similar programs.