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.
Another difference is that with affiliate marketing business, an affiliate can sell different products all at the same time. His selling potential is limitless. Even if the products are not related to one another, he can still do affiliate marketing. He only needs to create a separate website to market different products. Unlike with offline middleman marketing, a middleman must only sell related products to maintain his credibility, for who would take a salesman seriously who sells cars and baby products at the same time?