There are two Santa trackers in town — er, space — this Christmas: the trusty ole eyes at NORAD and Google's new version, the simultaneous existence of which could lead to some very confused children next Monday night.
While the military aerospace experts at NORAD have been helping believers track Santa Claus for going on 63 Christmas Eves now, they've broken their five-year partnership with Google, instead turning to Microsoft for its Bing and Windows Azure platforms. Google announced in an official blog post Wednesday that it will be breaking off on its own. Which is great, because one can never have too many ways to keep an eye on Santa's progress unless — oh, wait — an unsuspecting child happens upon both maps at the same time. Then what?
To be clear, and with apologies to Virginia: yes, Google and Microsoft insist, there is a Santa Claus. The help page at the new Google.com/SantaTracker (pictured above) goes into relatively minute detail about its data-mining elf informants; on Christmas Eve their work will be made clear on Google Maps, Google Earth, and Chrome. Though it's a new product, we imagine Google's native tracker might look like years past, with Santa flying over various highlighted landmarks and checking in on video.
For its part, NORAD enlists "high tech systems" — including fighter jets! — and has this answer for the inevitable is-he-real question: "We believe that Santa Claus is alive and well in the hearts of children throughout the world." It looks like the NORAD Tracker will operate much like it did before, now with Bing Maps and slightly different videos.
But slightly different is a really big difference when you're talking about the big man in the sky! Google's fancy animated interface and NORAD's proven "technology" should do the trick just fine — separately! But together? Enter the precocious modern child, with iPad and desktop and iPhone all pulled up next to the milk and cookies. You know, just to make sure, just to have all the proper data at hand. (We all know these types.) And, then, what if they don't add up? (Because how could they?!) Alternative Santa trackers have existed before. But have they ever been as accessible and high-profile as these two? Sometimes rival tech companies really do just get the best of each other — and the worst in all of us. Merry Christmas, we guess.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.