NORAD Tracks Santa using Cesium

Now that the details been announced publicly (, I am happy to also announce here that AGI and Cesium will be part of this year’s NORAD Tracks Santa site at We’ve been working with NORAD (and other partners such as Microsoft) for a few months to build this year’s Santa Tracker using Cesium, providing a fun, interactive 3D experience to an audience of millions, following Santa as he travels around the globe on Christmas Eve, using WebGL in modern browsers with a 2D fallback using Bing Maps in legacy browsers. NORAD has a decades-long history of tracking Santa, and AGI has been involved as far back as the late 90’s (see for more details). is now live, featuring a countdown and various games and activities throughout December, and the Cesium tracker will go live on the 24th. Obviously we’re pretty excited about this opportunity, both for Cesium and for WebGL in general. I think this may be the highest-profile use of WebGL yet on the web, after Google’s MapsGL, and even that doesn’t use WebGL by default. Personally, I hope this exposure helps get WebGL even further into the mainstream, and onto all platforms and browsers.

A lot of the recent work in Cesium (terrain, ocean, stars, camera, fullscreen, etc) has been in support of this goal (careful repo watchers may have seen me reference “Project X” repeatedly on GitHub). Most of the infrastructure is already in the main Cesium repository, and some others, like on-screen camera navigation controls and view-dependent billboard sizes, will be rolled back in soon.

Patrick has written a blog post at giving an in-depth tech preview of the tracker to a broader audience that may not be familiar with virtual globes or WebGL in general.

Keep an eye out for more updates, and make sure to stop by and check it out on the 24th!

To update everyone on NORAD Tracks Santa:


Just wondering if Santa’s elves can share any stats or issues relating to how NORAD Tracks Santa in Cesium played out?


Hi Chris,

We’re working on details with WebGL success stats, but the website broke its previous record, and had 22.3 million unique visitors (see here). I expect 6+ million of those saw Cesium. The rest used Bing Maps. CZML was used in both cases. Stay tuned.