In 1994, Tobin launched a beta version of PC Flowers & Gifts on the Internet in cooperation with IBM, who owned half of Prodigy. By 1995 PC Flowers & Gifts had launched a commercial version of the website and had 2,600 affiliate marketing partners on the World Wide Web. Tobin applied for a patent on tracking and affiliate marketing on January 22, 1996, and was issued U.S. Patent number 6,141,666 on Oct 31, 2000. Tobin also received Japanese Patent number 4021941 on Oct 5, 2007, and U.S. Patent number 7,505,913 on Mar 17, 2009, for affiliate marketing and tracking. In July 1998 PC Flowers and Gifts merged with Fingerhut and Federated Department Stores.
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.