Some merchants run their own (in-house) affiliate programs using dedicated software, while others use third-party intermediaries to track traffic or sales that are referred from affiliates. There are two different types of affiliate management methods used by merchants: standalone software or hosted services, typically called affiliate networks. Payouts to affiliates or publishers can be made by the networks on behalf of the merchant, by the network, consolidated across all merchants where the publisher has a relationship with and earned commissions or directly by the merchant itself.
I have been making money online for over a year now. Not in the big time yet, still consider myself to be learning my craft. I was doing it really ineffectively (using adsense and amazon along with a t shirt affiliate deal) and driving traffic almost exclusively though facebook. Probably averaged about $800 a month over the last year, mostly because Christmas brought an absolute ton of t shirt sales)