December 19, 2012
Classic NORAD Santa Stalker Ditches Google For Bing
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
As it turns out, Apple wasn´t the only one ready to ditch Google maps in favor of an alternative. This year when Santa comes to town, he´ll be using Microsoft´s Bing maps.
Every Christmas Eve since 1955, NORAD has been keeping tabs on Santa Claus for children everywhere as he traverses the globe. In the early days, children could call a NORAD hotline to hear of Santa´s whereabouts, likely hoping that he´ll soon be on their rooftop.
As technology progresses, however, NORAD has had to up their game, offering up their inside information on the Internet since 2004. Since that time, they´ve relied on Google´s mapping data to display the current location of St. Nick. According to a spokesperson for NORAD, however, Google is out and Bing is in.
“NORAD and Google have decided to go their separate ways and pursue other opportunities,” said Michael Kucharek, speaking with ABC News.
“It was a mutually agreed upon decision that transpired earlier this year.”
This will be the first time that Bing will be used on both NORAD´s website and mobile apps. And according to Kucharek, the transition from Google to Bing has been a smooth one. If current download numbers are any indication, it´s likely that NORAD will have a hefty number of people tracking Santa on Christmas Eve: The iOS app has already been downloaded 922,000 times since last week. Android users have downloaded the official app about 558,000 times, while Windows Phone 8 users have downloaded the app only 2,500 times.
Children (and the young at heart) from all across the globe use this service to monitor Santa´s whereabouts. According to Kucharek, some 29% of those tracking Santa are from the U.K., while 7% are from Canada and even 5% hail from Japan, where Christmas doesn´t have quite the same cultural significance as it does in America.
As the story goes, NORAD got into the Santa-tracking business in 1955 with a bit of misprinted retail marketing. A Sears ad had listed a phone number for children to call and speak with Santa directly. This number was actually the number to Peterson Air Force base in Colorado. When one Colonel Harry Shoup answered the phone, he decided to play along with the child´s request. In the years since, NORAD has been relying on new technologies and sponsors to help them deliver this service all over the world and even create a new tradition for many families.
“There´s a lot of generations now who get in front of the computer with grandma and grandpa and follow Santa,” said Kucharek. “We´re sort of moving with the times and the technology and expanding the program.”
For those who breathed a heavy sigh of relief and finally upgraded to iOS 6 when Google Maps was released for the iPhone last week, have no fear. There are still ways that you can track Santa via Google if you find yourself Bing-averse come Christmas eve. Google has announced their own Santa Tracker in the form of a Chrome extension. Like the NORAD tracker, this Chrome extension will let you play games in Santa´s village as you wait for his departure. You can even request a personal phone call from Santa.
But no matter how you decide to follow Santa this year, just be sure to leave out some cookies and milk, and maybe put your dog in the crate.