I have been running shareware download sites in one form or another for over three years and during that time I have become intimately familiar with many of the various shareware affiliate programs out there.
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Download Sites and Affiliate Programs

I have been running shareware download sites in one form or another for over three years and during that time I have become intimately familiar with many of the various shareware affiliate programs out there. In those three years I have also been able to formulate an opinion related to most of these programs and some, by no means all, of the vendors that choose to "participate" in these programs.

Out of the big three or four programs out there, RegNow, Share-It!, Plimus, and to a lesser extent eSellerate and RegSoft, only one really has a program in place to help affiliates make the most out of the program. That affiliate program is RegNow with their certification program.

This program was put in place to help affiliates identify vendors that properly participate in the program by making it possible for affiliates to choose the vendors that use RegNow in a way that allows affiliates to earn commissions for their referrals.

Considering the fact that I have also used other affiliate programs like Commission Junction, Share-A-Sale and Clickbank, the question needs to be asked as to why any kind of certification program would even be necessary.

With these programs and most other larger programs, a prospective vendor must provide a way for any of their affiliates to earn commissions for any referrals, if they don't the affiliate program in question does not allow the vendor to join or stay in the program. In the case of shareware affiliate programs, this isn't the case.

Even with RegNow's certification program and in the case with just about all shareware affiliate programs, vendors are not required to, and a large number of them do not, participate in a way that ensures affiliates get credit for referring a sale.

Shareware affiliate programs do work differently than normal programs as they rely on prospective buyers trying the product first before requiring them to purchase it. What this means is normally an affiliate will refer someone to download the trial version than rely on that visitor later buying the product.

In almost all cases this requires that a cookie set when the user downloads the trial to be recalled later when the user returns to the vendor's site to purchase the program. This is where the fatal flaw is in regards to shareware affiliate programs.

Why is this a problem? Cookies are the basis of most affiliate programs and other than the inherent flaw with cookies in general in regards to some people not allowing cookies to be set or those that regularly delete them, many vendors that participate in shareware affiliate programs choose not to use that program as their payment provider while others use that program along with other providers allowing the visitor to choose among several payment options. What this does is ensure that even with a cookie set, the referring affiliate has little if any chance of earning a commission for their efforts.

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