Santa Tracker Showdown
Every December, Google and Bing add a new element to their rivalry. Both create interactive websites that allow users to see what’s going on at the North Pole, and to track the man himself on his Christmas Eve journey.
NORAD (yes, that NORAD) has been tracking Santa’s December 24th trip since the 1950s, and in 2007 the organization partnered with Google to create a complementary online experience. However, since 2012 NORAD has partnered with Bing instead, leaving Google to continue the tradition on its own.
Historical Significance – Advantage: NORAD/Bing
While it seems perfectly logical for an aerospace organization to track Santa’s airborne voyage across the globe, the tradition actually started due to a misprinted Santa hotline number in a Sears Roebuck ad. In 1955, the team at Continental Air Defense Command (now NORAD) began mistakenly receiving phone calls from children expecting to speak with Santa. Rather than disappoint the kiddos they decided to play along, providing “official” status updates on the sleigh’s location using their sophisticated radar technology.
Online Games – Advantage: Google
Google features original (and addictive) holiday-themed games, many teaching kids the fundamentals of computer science. You can create a snowflake or lead an elf on a journey through the North Pole using coding logic.
Editorial Note: The Find a Pug game on NORAD’s site deserves honorable mention, but that might just be because the author of this post loves pugs.
Education – Advantage: Google
Both feature fun facts about the winter holidays and traditions around the world, but Google has a slight edge. There’s a section for teachers that includes lesson plans and games, as well as a list of non-profit organizations that support education.
Credibility – Advantage: NORAD/Bing
With a video showing the official announcement of this year’s Santa Tracker during a Canadian Parliament session, Virginias around the world will be convinced that this is the real deal.
Accessibility – Advantage: Google
Google offers a mobile app and a Chrome extension to keep Santa’s Village at your fingertips no matter which device you are using.
Unapologetic Commercialization of a Time Honored Tradition – Advantage: NORAD/Bing
There’s a gift shop. A gift shop selling official Santa Tracker swag including a letter from Santa that you can download and print – after you pay $2.95.
Of course, the most important feature is the accuracy of the tracker itself, but we’ll have to wait until Christmas Eve to declare a winner.