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Norad Santa Tracker : The History of NORAD, Google & Santa [Infographic]

Christmas Eve is only 1 day away and that means that Santa Claus is getting his reindeer and sleigh prepped to bring presents to boys and girls all around the world.

Every year around this time, NORAD launches its Santa Tracker with the help of Google Earth to track Santa’s route across the world on Christmas Eve as he starts his voyage in Australia and ends in Hawaii. Over the years we’ve seen Google partner with NORAD along with NORAD utilize Facebook and Twitter to update the world about Santa’s trip.

But how did the NORAD Santa Tracker begin?

Here is a visual timeline of the NORAD Santa Tracker compiled by the team here at SEJ. Enjoy 🙂

This is part of a special infographic series by Search Engine Journal. To see the rest go here.

History of the NORAD Santa Tracker : NORAD Tracks Santa (NTS)

Here’s a recap of all of the info in the IG timeline 🙂

A typo on a Sears ad had had kids calling Colorado Springs’ Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) Center, wanting to know where Santa was. Colonel Harry Shoup instructed his staff to release Santa’s location to every child that phoned.

Newspaper, radio & TV news reports joined the CONAD tradition

The tradition continued when the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) replaced CONAD

NORAD Tracks Santa (NTS) relies on corporate sponsorship & is not financed by American and Canadian taxpayers

NTS website went up on the internet


Four High-Tech Sysetms Used For NTS:

  • Radar: The North Warning System, 47 installations strung across the northern border of North America, indicates Santa has lifted off.
  • Satellites: Rudolph’s bright red nose gives off an infrared signature, which allows infrared heat sensoring satellites at 22,300 miles from the Earth’s surface, in geo-synchronous orbit, to detect Santa’s position.
  • The Santa Cam Network: Issued for Christmas Eve internet broadcasts since 1998, ultra-cool, high-tech, high-speed digital cameras pre-positioned around the world, capture images & videos of Santa.
  • Fighter Jets: Canadian NORAD fighter pilots flying the CF-18 intercept & welcome Santa to North America. In the United States, American NORAD fighter pilots use the F-15 or F-16.

NTS website and program received over 45 international Internet awards for website, including the coveted Medaille d’Or Award & Web Academy Award.

NTS offered a toll-free telephone number

Aaron Carter provided the voice-over for three “Santa Cam” videos

And 2004, the former Beatles drummer Ringo Starr narrated “Santa Cam” videos

To 2007, English television personality and celebrity Jonathan Ross did the British “Santa Cam” voice-over

NTS website was visited by a billion people in over 200 countries


  • NORAD NTS got its own YouTube channel
  • Google teamed up with NORAD and the website featured Google’s Map technology
  • Irate Canadians emailed complaints when they placed Santa in Toronto, identifying the city as being in the United States.
  • The Space Foundation received their “seal of approval” as a Corporate Patron Level Partner in the Certified Imagination Product Category


  • Google released an iGoogle countdown. On Christmas Eve, the Santa tracker gadget updated to show exactly where he was & provided a link to see the latest videos.
  • iTunes, Smartphone & Twitter first became extensions of the NTS program

2008 Operations Centre Stats:

  • 25 hours from 2 a.m. on December 24 till 3 a.m. on Christmas
  • 100 phones
  • 69,845 calls
  • 25 computers
  • 6,086 e-mails


  • 29 “Santa Cam” videos were posted on the site (24-26 previously)
  • Flickr, Picasa, OnStar & TroopTube joined the Social Media community for NTS
  • 1,200 plus volunteers, typically Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps personnel members & their families
  • 91 year old, retired, first Santa Tracker Colonel Harry Shoup, passed away on March 14


  • New corporate & government partners included Air Canada, Marine Toys for Tots, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, the Newseum, Unified TelData, & Colorado Springs, Colo., School District 11.
  • The official NORAD Santa Web site featured videos made by schoolchildren from around the world.

Category News
Melissa Fach SEOAware

Melissa is a Sr SEO Analyst at Cox Enterprises, a marketing consultant and the owner of SEO Aware, LLC. Melissa ...

Norad Santa Tracker : The History of NORAD, Google & Santa [Infographic]

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