Over the years there have been a number of websites created by various organizations that have purported to track Santa Claus. Some, such as NORAD Tracks Santa, the Air services Australia Tracks Santa Project, the Santa Update Project, and the MSNBC and Bing Maps Platform Tracks Santa Project have endured. Others, such as the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport’s Tracks Santa Project, the Santa Retro Radar – Lehigh Valley Project, and the NASA Tracks Santa Project, have fallen by the wayside.
A few words about NORAD Tracks Santa. It is an annual Christmas-themed entertainment program, which has existed since 1955. Every year on Christmas Eve, "NORAD Tracks Santa" purports to track Santa Claus as he leaves the North Pole and delivers presents to children around the world.
The program is in the tradition of the September 1897 editorial "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" in the New York Sun.
In 1955, a Sears Roebuck store in Colorado Springs, Colorado, gave children a number to call a "Santa hotline". The number was mistyped and children called the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) on Christmas Eve instead. The Director of Operations, Colonel Harry Shoup, received the first call for Santa and responded by telling children that there were signs on the radar that Santa was indeed heading south from the North Pole. A tradition began which continued under the name NORAD Tracks Santa when in 1958 Canada and the United States jointly created the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD). This tracking can now be done via the Internet and NORAD's website.
Between 2004 and 2009, people who visited the NORAD Tracks Santa site were told they could "track" Santa in Google Earth. They were given a link to download Google Earth, and then a KMZ file to download. Since 2009, the tracking in Google Earth has been done from the NORAD Santa site, and there is no KMZ file for Google Earth anymore. In 2011, an iOS and Android application was introduced.
In the past, many local television stations in the United States and Canada likewise "tracked Santa Claus" in their own metropolitan areas through the stations' meteorologists. In December 2000, the Weather Channel built upon these local efforts to provide a national Christmas Eve "Santa tracking" effort, called "SantaWatch" in cooperation with NASA, the International Space Station, and Silicon Valley-based new multimedia firm Dreamtime Holdings.
Many other websites are available year-round that are devoted to Santa Claus and purport to keep tabs on his activities in his workshop. Many of these websites also include email addresses which allow children to send email to Santa Claus. Most of these websites use volunteer living people as "elves" to answer email sent to Santa. Some websites, such as Santa’s page on Microsoft's Windows Live Spaces, however have used or still use "bots" to compose and send email replies, with occasional unfortunate results.
In addition to providing holiday-themed entertainment, "Santa tracking" websites raise interest in space technology and exploration, serve to educate children in geography and encourage them to take an interest in science.