Google’s Santa Tracker can help you keep track of the Big Man on his deliveries on Christmas Eve, and don’t forget to use Google’s cool Santa Call service, too.
Google Maps’ Santa Tracker is ready to be used by Santa Claus fans around the world as they track his Christmas Eve trip that has him delivering toys and gifts to good children and to well-behaved techies.
And that’s not all. For the first time, Google Chrome users can install a special Chrome extension in their browsers so they can watch all of Santa’s travels live while they simultaneously surf for other information without having to open another Chrome tab.
Both features were announced this week by Eric Bidelman, a Chrome developer elf, in a post on the Google Chrome Blog.
“On Christmas Eve, as Santa makes his way across the world, you can follow his progress and keep tabs on how many presents he’s delivered with the Google Maps’ Santa Tracker,” wrote Bidelman. “And this year Santa’s developer elves went a bit further. They created a Chrome extension that enables you to simultaneously browse the Web on your Chrome Browser and follow Santa along his route.”
The Santa Tracker Chrome extension can be downloaded from the Chrome Web Store.
That extension has a long list of other fun activities to explore, wrote Bidelman. “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.”
Santa fans can also use Google’s Santa Call feature to ask Santa to make a personal phone call to someone special this Christmas. The animated free service is interactive and asks the user to give some basic information about the recipient so that Santa can make a fun, personalized call to a phone or email address.
Google Maps engineers were the ones who were hard at work building the wizardry that delivers Santa’s magic on computer screens and mobile devices around the world.
“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,” according to a post by Brian McClendon, vice president of Google Maps and Google Earth, on the Google Lat-Long Blog. “On his sleigh, arguably the fastest airborne vehicle in the world, Santa whips from city to city delivering presents to millions of homes. You’ll be able to follow him on Google Maps and Google Earth, and get his stats starting at 2 a.m. PST Christmas Eve” using the Santa tracker.
Visitors can also check out Santa’s Village to watch the countdown clock to Christmas Eve and to observe the elves and reindeer in their preparations.
In past years, Google also powered the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD’s) annual Christmas Eve Santa Tracking site, but this year NORAD moved those responsibilities to Microsoft, where they’ve also deployed an official Windows 8 Santa tracking app, according to an article by SearchEngineLand.
NORAD had been tracking Santa using Google every year since 2007, using Google Maps and Google Earth, according to the story.
NORAD’s Santa tracking service will still use Google’s YouTube channel to offer videos of his package-delivering exploits.
Google announced on Wednesday the launch of an application in its Chrome browser to help children and adults track Santa as he travels the globe distributing presents on Christmas Eve.
Santa Tracker enables users of Chrome to both browse the internet and follow Saint Nick and his
reindeer entourage on their journey around the world.
Users of the app can also see the countdown to Santa’s departure, play with his blimp and elf bus and write messages to the bearded red suited one on a frosty browser window.
Download the app via the Chrome store at chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/santa-tracker/iodomglenhcehfbhbakhedmbobhbgjcb.
Those not using Chrome can follow Santa and his sleigh via NORAD’s Santa tracker at noradsanta.org. NORAD recently announced that it would no longer be operating the Santa tracker in conjunction with Google Maps but would, instead, work with Microsoft and Microsoft’s search engine Bing.
NORAD has been using Google Maps since 2007, but earlier in December, it ditched Google for Bing Maps to track the man in red this year. On Wednesday, Google announced its own Santa Tracker anyway, which you’ll be able to use to follow the big buy on Google Maps and Google Earth starting at 2:00AM PST on Christmas Eve over at Google.com/SantaTracker.
The fact Microsoft managed to sway the NORAD Tracks Santa project to its side hasn’t deterred Google. The company says it has put together a team of dedicated Google Maps engineers to build a “new route algorithm” for tracking Santa’s journey around the world on Christmas Eve.
Here’s how it will look when it’s working next week:
Here’s how it currently looks:
The countdown site is full of Christmas surprises for the kids and anyone else who enjoys keeping a tab on Saint Nick. The company claims you can even ask Santa to call a friend or family member.
If you were wondering, it’s powered by Gmail (sample message):
Google naturally sees this as an opportunity to get into the spirit of the holidays:
On Christmas Eve we’ll be proudly showcasing a preview of Santa’s dashboard — the technology that powers his sleigh during his around-the-world journey. We’ve received this special preview from one of Santa’s many developer elves, who are hard at work in the North Pole helping Santa prepare for his big day. Santa’s dashboard – featuring the latest and greatest in Google Maps technology and sleigh engineering – will allow you to follow his progress around the world, and also learn a little about some of his stops along the way.
All that technology means Google has been able to build a few more tools to help you track Santa from wherever you are: a Chrome extension and an Android app. You’ll also be able to get updates from Google Maps on Google+, Facebook, and Twitter, of course.
Here’s the Chrome extension in action:
It looks to us like the Microsoft-Google war has now even expanded to Santa. On the one hand there is NORAD with official apps for Android, iOS, Windows Phone, and even Windows 8. On the other there is Google with its own site, Chrome extension, and Android app. It’s almost too much, but the kids will undoubtedly love it all.
Image credit: Marcelo Graciano