This Year, NORAD Tracks Santa With Microsoft & Bing, Not Google

Google has been helping the popular NORAD Tracks Santa site locate Santa Claus on Christmas Eve since 2007. But this year, Jolly St. Nick will be tracked on Bing Maps, not Google. NORAD is also pushing an official Windows 8 app. It part of Microsoft being the new lead partner for the site.

NOTE: For the latest news on 2012 Santa tracking, see our post: Where’s Santa Claus? The 2012 Santa Tracker List, From NORAD To Google, From The Web To Apps

Goodbye, Google

NORAD Tracks Santa has a new “team” page listing corporate sponsors. Microsoft tops the list; Bing Maps is prominent and Google is nowhere to be found:

Bing Maps Bumps Google Maps

On Christmas Eve, since 2007, NORAD has been tracking Father Christmas through Google Maps and Google Earth, as with this example from last year: 

This year, NORAD is saying on its Track Santa page that Bing Maps will be used on Christmas Eve for 2D views. For those who want the 3D-style experience Google Earth offered, the new partner for that is Cesium (instructions on preparing your browser for tracking with Cesium are here).

NORAD Gets Own Mobile Apps Rather Than Google Maps

Last year, NORAD didn’t push its own mobile apps, instead sending people to simple search for “santa” using Google Maps on their phones. This year, NORAD Track Santa is offering apps for Windows Phone, Google Play and iPhone/iPad/iOS, along with a Windows 8 app. Note how Windows Phone gets listed first among the icons at the bottom of the Track Santa page:

It’s a pretty big win for Microsoft and should give its products greater exposure, though I’m kind of sad that NORAD Tracks Santa is now developing into a service that corporations are clearly fighting over to sponsor. But I love the service, and if it helps support it, cool.

YouTube Remains Favored

Google’s not completely out, however, thanks to Google-owned YouTube. Despite not being a sponsor, NORAD Tracks Santa is still pushing its YouTube channel:

NORAD Tracks Santa also lists the YouTube icon at the bottom of all its pages, ahead of and next to icons for its Facebook and Twitter accounts, as you can see in the lower-right corner of the screenshot above. Yes, the Google+ page NORAD created last year is still up and active. It just doesn’t get icon promotion.

I’ve asked Google, NORAD and Microsoft about the change and will update if I hear more. Microsoft’s been pretty low-key about it, posting yesterday that:

This year Microsoft is partnering with NORAD to make following the big red sleigh easier than ever. The Santa Tracker tool is built on the Microsoft Windows Azure cloud computing platform and Bing Maps, and anxious kids can even track Kris Kringle on Windows Phone and Windows 8 apps.

The remainder of the post is actually from NORAD, explaining how the missile tracking organization got into watching for St. Nick.

I’ll do my annual rundown on how the service is operating when it goes live on Christmas Eve. There will obviously be some differences from last year, though much will be similar — so my post from last year still works as a preview: Where’s Santa Claus? The 2011 Santa Tracker List, From NORAD To Your Phone!

Postscript: NORAD sent me this statement:

Google supported NTS [NORAD Tracks Santa] from 2007-2011 and helped increase NTS program awareness across the globe; NORAD is grateful for the partnership and the resulting success.  This year, NTS and Google mutually agreed to go in new directions, and we are excited to welcome a number of new contributors, to include Microsoft, Windows Azure, Bing, and iLink-systems, among others, to help us in our mission of tracking Santa.  The ability to work with a diverse team of contributors is fundamental to the NTS mission, and we appreciate all of the continued support of all contributors.

NOTE: For the latest news on 2012 Santa tracking, see our post: Where’s Santa Claus? The 2012 Santa Tracker List, From NORAD To Google, From The Web To Apps

Related Topics: Channel: Local | Google: Maps & Local | Google: Marketing | Microsoft: Bing | Microsoft: Marketing | Search Engines: Santa Tracker | Top News


About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • Hal Fast

    That is great! No big fan of google anyway, but they are ok. Glad to hear that NORAD Track Santa is moving forward. :)

  • Stephen Sevenyoln

    Go Bing

  • Francois Mathieu

    At least it’s not iPhone Maps. Santa is safe.

  • ToBobJim

    Oh wow, thats not good at all. Whats up with that!

  • Andrew Karalis

    NORAD first teamed up with Analytical Graphics Inc. and Google back in 1997.

  • Ðavε

    how will my kids follow santa now… they have no idea what bing is ;-) oh wait I see that google has their own santa tracker now with out Norad’s help.

  • Kenneth Hoffman

    And today we learned that the new BING based tracker does not work in IE. There are a ton of great full screen and 3D features written using WEBGL that have convinced us to install Google Chrome on our home machines for the first time so my kid can see Santa on large globe vs a small 2D map which is all IE supports. Wondering who at BING chose / vetted the technology partners.

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