In February 2000, Amazon announced that it had been granted a patent 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.
The only difference with the offline middleman and affiliate business program is that the online affiliate does not need to get hold of the actual product to earn revenue. He doesn’t need to shell out money to buy the product that he has to sell. All he has to do is create a site that markets the products of the producer. Every time he makes a sale, the producer will take over to send the actual products, receive payments and extend customer support, when necessary. A special web-based script records this process and thus the affiliate is paid for every successful sale he makes.