Digital

The battle between Bing Maps and Google Earth over Santa Claus

Dec 24, 2012 5:56 am

Skift Take

There is definitely room here for a joke about Apple Maps and Santa ending up stranded in the Australian outback, isn’t there?

— Jason Clampet

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Google faces a challenge this year in its annual effort to track the Santa’s progress on his global present delivery round on the web.

Bing, Microsoft’s rival search engine, has mounted a Christmas coup by poaching the cooperation of Norad, the US military’s nuclear command centre, which has been tracking Saint Nicholas for more than half a century.

Since 2004, Norad has been sharing its official government data online with the help of Google Earth and Google Maps, but this year the mapping software is being provided by Bing Maps.

“Norad and Google have decided to go their separate ways and pursue other opportunities,” said Michael Kucharek, a Norad spokesman.

Google said it had built a new way of tracking Santa itself.

“While we’ve been tracking Santa since 2004 with Google Earth and Google Maps, this year a team of dedicated Google Maps engineers built a new route algorithm to chart Santa’s journey around the world on Christmas Eve,” said Google Maps executive Brian McClendon.

As well as websites, noth sides have also built smartphone apps to allow people on the move to keep up with the sleigh. Google’s is only available for Android, while Norad and Microsoft have made apps for the Apple iOS and Windows Phone 8.

Father Christmas starts his journey at approximately 0900 GMT, and according to Norad, he usually starts at the International Date Line in the Pacific Ocean and travels west.

At time of writing, Santa was headed to the Kuril Islands and had already delivered more than 335 million presents, according to Norad, while Google Santa tracker page appeared to be broken. “Santa’s elves are working hard to fix it,” it said.

Norad’s Santa tracker dates back to 1955 when a Colorado Springs store ran an advertisement encouraging local children to call a special telephone hot line to speak to Santa.

A printing error meant that the phone number for the Director of Operations at Continental Air Defense Command (Conad) was published instead, leading to the centre being inundated by calls from excited children. The head of the Conad, which later became Norad, instructed his staff to give the children updates on Santa’s position and the tradition was born.

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