Perhaps not as funny as the classic 1938 comedy sketch "Who's on First?" popularized by Abbott and Costello, but it does bring a smile to one's face when anybody is able to give Google a run for their money. Such is the case when the Northern American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) backed by Microsoft and Bing take on the Granddaddy of search engines in a face-off that pits one Santa Tracker against another.
NORAD, historically speaking. . .
NORAD began tracking Santa from Peterson Air Force Base in 1955 when a small child called the base in hopes of speaking with Santa Claus. The base's phone number was misprinted in a Sears newspaper ad which started a flood of misdirected telephone calls - and the rest as they say - is history.
“The number went straight to Col. Harry Shoup and he just played along,” said Michael Kucharek spokesman for the government's project. At that time, NORAD had no sponsors or high-speed technology to help track Santa. Over the years, the project has grown in scope and size from 10 partners in 2004 to over 50 in 2012.
While NORAD metaphorically-speaking made it "to first" decades in advance of Google, they did ironically have a working relationship with the search engine. That was -- until last year -- when the defense monitoring system decided to shift allegiances. It was then that they decided to track Santa on Microsoft's Bing Maps versus Google Maps [which up till then had been used since 2007.]
Prior to Christmas 2012, Kurcharek announced it had come to a mutually agreed upon decision where "NORAD and Google had decided to go their separate ways and pursue other opportunities."
Kucharek said NORAD turned to technology to change with the times and to reach a broader audience through its website, which includes demographics of families around the world. That technology now also relies on social media. That's right -- even Santa tweets. With over 114K on Twitter, 1.2 million followers on Facebook, they've even signed up for a G+ account where over 19K have them circled.
New Improved Trackers
This year, both NORAD and Google have upped their game. Norad's site not only counts down the days until Santa will begin delivering presents but will also provide followers with a running tally of the number of gifts delivered. While Microsoft began providing NORAD with Bing Maps last year, this Christmas, it went one step further by helping to redesign the site to bring it up to modern Web standards. The site is now written in HTML 5 and is touch-screened enabled, including Internet Explorer 11.
Google also has a few tricks of their own this year. The search giant's latest Santa Tracker focuses on an updated Android app (launching mid-December). This is accompanied by Chromecast TV streaming support -- where viewers will soon get to follow St. Nick from the comfort of their couches. Keeping tabs on him from the web is also easy as the company is promising both daily game and scene updates as well as a refreshed Chrome extension.
And since Google owns YouTube, they would be remiss if they didn't include a video to promote this year's tracker.
Could Google Glass be the Deal Breaker?
So it's a toss-up as to which site will attract the most viewership in 2013?
However Google, in its inimical marketing savvy might have the ringer to sway more traffic their way. When they announced the launch of a Santa Tracker Glass App for mid-December, it looked liked they might have gotten a leg up. For those lucky few who have a loved one or a rich benefactor who can GIFT them with a Google Glass set -- at the low, low price of $1500 -- they can experience the tracker in a very augmented reality new-age fashion.Very cool for high-end technocrats, wouldn't you say?
But then again for us mere members of the masses, maybe this isn't really a deal breaker. While the 1 percent might think so, for us other 99 percenters -- as the larger segment of the population, we'll have to be satisfied to view reality - just as it is - without the all the bells and whistles!