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It was easy enough to make some money, but you had to think out of the box to make any sort of real money. Affiliate programs like the one you mentioned worked wonders back then, because there where just so many suckers!
As people began to wake up and realise the web wasn't an easy way to geet ritch, it became a little bit harder. Then it was all about chosing the right affiliate programs and grafting enough content to get them seen. To be honest its a bit like that today.
Im still waiting for my first million :), but the web keeps me afloat!
Serious though, for me it was early 1996 when I sat in for a seminar on something the guy called E-commerce. Later that year, I started getting paid for building sites freelance.
Based on a disagreement on the direction to go, I took the owner's advice of "If you don't like it this way, you are free to build your own site how you want." His site went offline less than a year later. Mine allowed me to quit the corporate world a few years later and start my own business. :)