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Google plays musical chairs with affiliate ad networks

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Google has bagged one affiliate network in favor of another.

At the end of August, the world's largest ad broker will discontinue its AdSense Referrals program, the affiliate network it launched back in March 2007. Now that Larry and Serg own ad behemoth DoubleClick, they'll do the affiliate thing through DoubleClick's Performics network. Except it's no longer called Performics. Yesterday, it was renamed the Google Affiliate Network.

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Both networks work in much the same way. Third-party web sites (the affiliates) drive traffic to advertiser sites, and if this results in a sale - or some other action - the affiliate gets a cut. So Google has decided to eliminate a little redundancy.

The AdSense Referrals program dovetails with - you guessed it - Google's overarching AdSense advertiser network. But DoubleClick Performics - sorry, the Google Affiliate Network - will remain a completely separate operation.

Yesterday, members of the AdSense Referrals program received emails announcing the program's imminent death, and yes, they were urged to join the new Google Affiliate Network. But the messages also point out that AdSense users can replace their referral ads with standard cost-per-clicks ads.

"We're constantly looking for ways to improve AdSense by developing and supporting features which drive the best monetization results for our publishers," the emails say. "Sometimes, this requires retiring existing features so we can focus our efforts on the ones that will be most effective in the long term."

In other words, the AdSense Referrals program never came close to matching with other big-name affiliate networks, including Performics.

Performics began life in 1998 as an independent operation, and in 2004, DoubleClick snapped it up for $58m. Then Google swallowed the swallower, forking over $3.1bn for DoubleClick while sidestepping regulators in both the US and the EU.

Google has posted the meat of its email to AdSense Referrals users here. AdSense Referrals code posted to affiliate sites will no longer display ads beginning the last week of August. ®

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