NORAD Tracks Santa is a popular website for those eagerly awaiting the ‘jingle jingle’ of sleigh bells on Christmas Eve, but this year, Saint Nick’s whereabouts will be shown on Bing Maps instead of Google. The site, run by the North American Aerospace Defense Command, now has an “Our Team” page that lists corporate sponsors. Microsoft, Windows Azure, and Bing Maps are prominently featured among the business backers.
Since 2007, NORAD has been powered by Google Maps and Google Earth, but no mention of the search engine behemoth or either feature can be found anywhere on the website this year. For people looking for a 3D view à la Google Earth, NORAD is now working with Cesium. After Microsoft’s recent push against Google this holiday season, including a campaign called “Don’t Get Scroogled,” some may think the change in companies is a blow against Google. NORAD was a little vague about its split with Google, telling Search Engine Land that “NTS and Google mutually agreed to go in new directions.” Apparently, the split was amicable.
In previous years, the site allowed fans to track Saint Nick with their smartphones by searching “santa” within Google Maps. Clearly, that’s no longer an option. Another change this year is that NORAD built proprietary mobile apps for Windows Phone, Android, and iOS, along with a Windows 8 app. Fortunately, Google and Apple have not been entirely ignored on the app side.
For anyone who is curious about why and how a military organization focused on missile tracking got involved with following the path Santa, the NORAD website has the history.