With less than a week away from Christmas Eve, there's a battle under way for the best Santa tracker app.
On Wednesday, Google launched its own Santa tracker app for 2012 to rival the one the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) releases every year. The app will be available for Android as well as online with a direct feed from St. Nick himself.
“While we’ve been tracking Santa since 2004 with Google Earth, 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,” VP of Google Maps and Google Earth, Brian McClendon, said . “On his sleigh, arguably the fastest airborne vehicle in the world, Santa whips from city to city delivering presents to millions of homes."
Google said the Santa tracker will be available on Google Maps and Google Earth beginning at 2 a.m. PST on Christmas Eve. In addition to the Santa tracker online, there's a new extension for Google Chrome and an Android app for smartphones and tablets.
“Before Santa takes off on Christmas Eve, you can also use the extension to follow the countdown to his departure, play around with his blimp, elf bus, and write messages on a frosty browser window,” Google Chrome developer, Eric Bidelman, said.
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While the app isn't available until Dec. 24, a countdown is available on Santa's Village, where users can watch the elves and reindeer prepare for the big journey on Christmas. Google also has a link to request a call from Santa himself before the holiday.
Google's latest developments in Santa tracker technology comes in an effort to compete with NORAD, which dropped its partner of nearly five years to work with Microsoft and Bing. Last week, NORAD released a Windows 8 version of its Santa tracker app, provided by Bing.
However, Google and NORAD didn't part on bad terms. A NORAD spokesperson told Search Engine Land that Google and NORAD "mutually agreed to go in new directions."
But there's not much difference in NORAD's Santa tracker app for 2012 compared to past years. NORAD still offers iOS and Android apps in addition to Windows Phone apps, and of course, on Cesium and Bing Maps.
NORAD has been tracking Santa every Christmas for 57 years, first beginning in an ad at a local Sears, Roebuck & Co department store. It allowed children to call Santa directly, but the phone number in the ad contained a typo directing calls to NORAD's predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command. With the error, the calls were routed to either the chairman, secretary of defense or the president rather than Santa. That's when Colonel Harry Shoup instructed his team to give all of the children calling information about Santa, giving birth to the tradition.
Nowadays, NORAD gets over 102,000 phone calls and 7,700 emails from children around the world.
"Every December 24th since 1955 we have been telling children exactly where Santa is so that children all over the world can make sure that they're in bed on time so that Santa will deliver their presents," deputy chief at NORAD, Stacey Knott, told Reuters.
The app called "NORAD Tracks Santa" is available on iOS, Android, Windows 8 and web apps. In addition to the free app, children can go to www.noradsanta.org (which is available in eight languages), call the hotline at 1-877-HI-NORAD, or email email@example.com on Christmas Eve to get information on Santa's whereabouts.