Google and Bing Launch Competing Online ‘Santa Trackers’

Naughty or Nice? Two competing search companies offer new ways to track Santa on his travels around the globe.

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He may see you when you’re sleeping and know when you’re awake, but Santa probably doesn’t have his own web apps to keep tabs on you.

The Google Santa Tracker lets you follow Santa and his reindeer-powered sleigh as he delivers presents around the world, in real time. The search engine company will start mapping his route at 5 pm EST on Christmas Eve,  allowing viewers to spot his exact location, his next stop, the time left before his next departure and just exactly how many presents he’s dropped off in the meantime.

(MORE: 100-Year-Old Letter to Santa Found Stuck in Chimney)

It also allows users to customize a personal message from Saint Nick and the ability to send it to a phone, through e-mail or through Google+. However you’ve got to be a big kid (18 years or older) to use the service, and live in North America. There’s a few links to games as well if the kiddies have a hankering to play Hide and Seek with Rudolph.

Since 2007, Google has teamed up with the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) to follow Kris Kringle’s antics, but the defense agency will be teaming up with Bing this year instead, after Google decided to launch its own version. The NORAD/Bing offering, according to The Guardian, will also offer “information about the elevation and direction of Santa’s ‘journey’ and photos, weather and Wikipedia information on the destinations.” NORAD –  which been keeping tabs on Santa’s flight plan since 2004 – will have nearly 1,250 volunteers available on a special Santa hotline to answer calls and e-mails about his whereabouts.

(MORE: Why Santa Claus Is a No-Show at Many Malls This Year)

In case you’re wondering how NORAD got tied up in all this festive skywatching in the first place — don’t they have other things to look out for? —  PC World has the story. According to legend:

Back in the bad old days of the Cold War, a newspaper published the wrong phone number for Santa Claus. Instead, it published the direct dial number for the commander-in-chief of NORAD’s predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD).

In the spirit of the holidays, CONAD’s director of operations, Harry Shloup, rolled with the snafu and had his staff field the calls from kids flooding into his agency asking for status reports on Santa. That night, a tradition was born.

This year, it might be easier on the hardworking folks at NORAD if you just stick to using your browser.