Scientists conceived of the internet long before it existed. In the 1930’s, people like Vannevar Bush and Paul Otlet theorized mechanical systems for information search not unlike Google’s index.

The internet as a computerized network of data storage machines didn’t show up until the early 1960s. And even then, the first network, ARPANET, was government system funded by the U.S. Department of Defense. We wouldn’t see a workable commercial internet until the late 1980s.

The Internet Is Young

The internet is still a young technology. And anything we do on the internet today, we’ve not been doing for very long in the grand scheme of history.

Take books, for example. We’ve been printing on paper and binding them up since the second century A.D. That’s 1800 years or so.

What’s great about old technology, however, is that it’s still useful. We can use it to enhance newer technology. For example, you might use brochure templates you find on the internet to print IRL brochures for your marketing campaign.

Affiliate marketing arrived through a marriage such as this. A physical flower delivery business pioneered affiliate marketing in 1989. A man by the name of William J. Tobin took the company to over $6 million in sales by utilizing 3000 affiliate marketing partners on the internet.

A Patent That Changed Everything

If you can’t track where the customers come from, you have to rely on the honor system to reward your affiliates. “This many people clicked on this link, how many bought?” It would create a sticky situation pretty fast.

Tobin fixed this by creating a hypertext tag that would categorize a link and signal which site the link originated. He even patented the system.

This changed the way we use the internet. It opened up the ability to track any kind of behavior on the internet. And without William J. Tobin, we might not have the ability to target ads.

Amazon Jumped On Board And Everything Exploded

When a worthwhile marketing technique appears, it’s not long before the big boys pick it up and start playing ball. Amazon was the big boy who thought to utilize Tobin’s system. And it made them the shopping giant they are today.

Once Amazon began affiliate marketing in 1996, others joined in and used Amazon’s model. A new avenue of both marketing and income became accessible to businesses and entrepreneurs. Companies like Commission Junction become reality and we’re off to an incredible, money-soaked future.

Enter the FTC

If an industry begins making money, the government sticks its Georgie-Porgie-fingers in your pie. And really, the FTC just required a bunch of disclosure statements the FTC required to be able to operate (everyone has a right to know where their money is going, it seems).

One upside to FTC regulations: it legitimized the business in some circles. This opened the way for marketers to distinguish themselves from the scams floating around out there.


The affiliate marketing game hasn’t changed much in the last nine years. It’s still dependent on garnering a large audience. When you have an audience or you rank for specific high-volume keywords on Google, you can make bank.

If you want to know more about affiliate marketing and how to make it big in the online marketing world, check out Shoemoney’s Shoeintology.

By Ben Mattice

Benjamin Mattice is a freelance writer/editor, horror and sci-fi writer, SEO and affiliate marketing newbie, dog wrestler, cat wrangler, capoeirista, and long distance runner. He lives in the Palouse with his wife, three dogs, two cats, and two rats. Yes, that would probably be considered a mini-zoo.