Tracking Santa Goes Ho-Ho-Ho High-Tech

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Ever since a typo led the North American Aerospace Defense Command to getting calls about Santa’s whereabouts in 1955, NORAD has been the “official” tracker of Santa Claus. This year, you can follow Santa via Twitter and Facebook — or on Google’s rival site, Google Santa Tracker, where you can sign up for personalized voice mail messages from Santa.

NORAD’s website facelift for 2013 include the ability to navigate the site in eight languages as well as a new character, Starkey the Space Elf, who “travels through space helping Santa make sure children are on their best behavior.” A more controversial digital add-on is the jet-fighter escort that flanks Santa and the reindeer as they appear to fly around the world.

“It’s still cutesy since it’s for kids, but we don’t want people to lose sight of our true mission,” spokesman Navy Captain Jeff A. Davis told The Boston Globe.

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Some child advocates think the military association is out of line. But there’s no doubt about its popularity: last year, the website garnered 22.3 million unique visitors, and 1.2 million mobile downloads. It’s staffed by 1,200 volunteers.

Google, meanwhile, is showcasing HTML5 in its 10th addition of its online Santa’s Village.

“It both helps kids and adults understand what’s possible in the browser, but it also helps Developer Relations prove out how good the platform is and what the capabilities are,” VP of Engineering for Google Maps Brian McClendon told Fast Company. “Santa is a great test app that has a huge audience, and then you get to build it again next year in a new and different form.”

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Tracking Santa won’t begin until Christmas Eve, but games in both the NORAD and Google version are live now.

Credit: Michael Kucharek/NORAD