Affiliate Marketing History – A Brief Look

Although the Internet is still in its infancy, there is no concrete documentation of the first existing affiliate program. It is a well-known story that Jeff Bezos, CEO and founder of, came up with the idea of an online referral commission system after chatting with a woman at a cocktail party. launched their affiliate program in July 1996 and has often been mistaken to have launched the first ever Internet affiliate program.

Amazon did launch their affiliate program quite early on but at the time, PC Flowers & (October 1994), (October 1995), / (January 1996), EPage (April 1996), and a handful of others already had an informal affiliate program in place.

“While I admire what Jeff Bezos did for the industry, he in no way pioneered anything,” said Brad Waller, VP of marketing for EPage.

“He popularized the idea, but he was a latecomer — by about two years. There is quite a bit of documentation on this issue, including assertions by Jason Olim and Matthew Olim, in their book about founding CDNow, that they had an informal program in 1994,” continued Waller.

In addition to the websites mentioned above, I am guessing that there were countless adult websites with existing affiliate programs before 1994. Even though Amazon did not formally launch the first Internet affiliate program, they did however, popularized it for the mass market.

Thanks to Shawn Collins for contributing info for this post.

This entry is part of a 3 article post:

1. Affiliate Marketing History – A Brief Look
2. Affiliate Marketing Today
3. The Future of Affiliate Marketing

Ian Lee
Work from home dad, marketer and photographer. Fallen in love with basketball all over again as I coach my daughter's team.

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