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.
In the past, large affiliates were the mainstay, as catch-all coupon and media sites gave traffic to hundreds or thousands of advertisers. This is not so much the case anymore. With consumers using long-tail keywords and searching for very specific products and services, influencers can leverage their hyper-focused niche for affiliate marketing success. Influencers may not send advertisers huge amounts of traffic, but the audience they do send is credible, targeted, and has higher conversion rates.
This article includes a general overview of types of affiliates and agreements. Every business situation is unique, so be sure to get help from an attorney in preparing any affiliate agreement. There may be "gotcha" clauses or language that you may not have seen or included. For example, if you are the affiliate, check to see what percentage of ownership, if any, the other company has in your business.