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Tracking Santa is becoming a Holiday tradition among many families living in the digital age, and for a long time there was only one way to make sure you knew where Santa was making his deliveries, NORAD. The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) is an American/Canadian defense system that normally looks for incoming missiles and attacks on North America, but for one day and night they focus instead on tracking the jolly gift giver as he traverses the world giving presents to all the children. For awhile, NORAD was basically the only player in the game, at least for English speaking children, but now there’s a competitor, and it comes from Google. Why is Google getting in the Santa tracking industry? Partly because NORAD has teamed up with Microsoft’s Bing Maps system to display their tracking information. The biggest problem with Google entering the mix isn’t the quality of service, both are seemingly top-notch, but rather the issue arises when you compare where Santa is at any given moment.

Right now, Google has Santa somewhere over western Russia, delivering presents in the blistering Russian cold, while NORAD says he’s making dropping down the chimneys of homes in Tanzania, a decidedly warmer climate. So, which tracker has the sleigh in the right hemisphere? That’s tough to say, especially since we’re confident that Santa isn’t using Apple Maps to find his way around the globe. NORAD has the perks of being a veteran when it comes to tracking flying objects, plus they’re even keeping track of how many gifts have been delivered, 2.4 billion so far if you’re curious. Google on the other hand lets you select any of the previous locations that Santa has already visited and get the low-down on how the deliveries went, including temperature, time and how many presents were left at that location. Both sites give you Wikipedia entries and photos from the locations that Saint Nick has visited, but NORAD even offers up some videos from their sophisticated Santa tracking system. Heck, they even claim to scramble some jets for escort and video.

As you might expect, the visualization of the tracking system is more eye pleasing on the Google side, with their full page map and bright color scheme. NORAD offers up full screen as well, but with the added benefit of satellite mapping and 3D representations of the terrain. One of the biggest pluses for Google is the inclusion of a few games for the kids, which can be very handy if it gets a little boring watching him from the other side of the planet. It would be too difficult to say one service was better than the other, since they both offer fun and entertainment for the children. My kids love tracking Santa, and if you’re new to this tradition I highly recommend giving it a shot.

Here’s the NORAD link.

Here’s the Google link.

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