The concept of affiliate marketing on the Internet was conceived of, put into practice and patented by William J. Tobin, the founder of PC Flowers & Gifts. Launched on the Prodigy Network in 1989, PC Flowers & Gifts remained on the service until 1996. By 1993, PC Flowers & Gifts generated sales in excess of $6 million per year on the Prodigy service. In 1998, PC Flowers and Gifts developed the business model of paying a commission on sales to the Prodigy Network.[8][9]

In February 2000, Amazon announced that it had been granted a patent[18] on components of an affiliate program. The patent application was submitted in June 1997, which predates most affiliate programs, but not PC Flowers & Gifts.com (October 1994), AutoWeb.com (October 1995), Kbkids.com/BrainPlay.com (January 1996), EPage (April 1996), and several others.[13]
Amazon Associates — Amazon sells millions of products (books, music, electronics, toys, and more) that fit into virtually any niche, so its affiliate marketing program is a natural choice for almost anyone. Comparatively speaking, its payouts are generous, too: They vary based on product type and sales volume, but commission rates start at 4 percent and can reach up to 15 percent for specific product lines. However, note that Amazon’s program is now illegal in several states (although there are some work-arounds).
Affiliate marketing overlaps with other Internet marketing methods to some degree, because affiliates often use regular advertising methods. Those methods include organic search engine optimization (SEO), paid search engine marketing (PPC – Pay Per Click), e-mail marketing, content marketing, and (in some sense) display advertising. On the other hand, affiliates sometimes use less orthodox techniques, such as publishing reviews of products or services offered by a partner.[citation needed]
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