For the second year in a row, NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) is using Bing Maps for their annual Santa tracker. Google is running their own Santa Tracker, which has officially launched for this holiday season.
On the Google Santa Tracker page, users can scroll through the village and participate in games at various places. Some of the features are still locked and should become available as we get closer to Santa’s departure.
An advent calendar of sorts is accessed by clicking on the Santa icon on the top right. It shows that there are 24 features or games to unlock each day, up until Christmas Eve. Users can track Santa around the globe in 3D (with the Google Earth plug-in installed).
Last year was the first NORAD joined forces with Bing, after working with Google Maps since 2007. The decision to change map providers was said to be mutual, so it wasn’t surprising to see NORAD continue with Bing this year. Google has a long history of tracking Santa, even before they joined forces with NORAD in 2007, as they had previously offered their own Google Santa Tracking via Google Earth.
Both parties have upped their game; NORAD with a new HTML5 website and app, and Google with their games strategy.
This year, Microsoft moved beyond providing just the Bing Maps functionality to involving their Internet Explorer, Bing and Azure teams in the rebuild of the site, to bring it up to modern web and mobile standards.
NORAD site visitors can also watch movies about Santa or NORAD in the "village theater," listen to popular holiday songs on the music stage, learn about holiday traditions in the library, or visit NORAD HQ to learn about the Secret Santa files and Operation Good Will.
Is the competition friendly? "We only worry about providing the very best experience for our Santa trackers," Stacey Knott, NORAD's Deputy Chief of Strategic Outreach, told ABC News. "We have been tracking Santa since 1955 using our military satellites, radars, fighter jets and Santa cams."
There is still a Google connection with the NORAD however, as NORAD is still using YouTube for all their official Santa tracking videos, which feature celebrity messages and other short videos related to Santa tracking.