Santa traveled over 200,000 miles, by one account, and delivered 8 billion gifts on Christmas Eve. Two organizations kept track of his progress for the day before Christmas but posted somewhat different totals.
Google’s Santa Tracker and the NORAD Tracks Santa offered real times statistics as Santa flew around the world. The NORAD system is operated by the North American Aerospace Defense Command, with the United States and Canadian joint operation responsible for the systems that give warnings of incoming threats to North America and running the aerospace and missile response systems. Its Santa tracker was launched in 1955 by the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) Operations Center, the NORAD predecessor According to NORAD, on December 24, “fifteen hundred volunteers staff telephones and computers to answer calls and e-mails from children.” The tracker gets an average of 9 million unique visitors from 200 countries.
The Google product was released in 2004 and based on Google Maps. Operated by the world’s largest search engine, the site begins to track Santa in the world’s furthest eastern time zone as December 24 begins. Google set a technology marriage with NORAD in 2007 to help run the government site. The search engine’s management wrote at the time, “Google became NORAD’s official Santa Tracking technology partner and hosted http://www.noradsanta.org. In addition to tracking Santa in Google Earth, we added a Google Maps tracker and integrated YouTube videos into the journey as well.” Thus, the two systems have a good deal of overlap.
Despite the partnership, the two trackers maintain their identities and brands. Each organization has its own set of partners. Google uses Weather.com to give weather data at each spot Santa visits. The Google site also has some related Christmas videos and games. NORAD links to Wikipedia, a nonprofit, for descriptions of cities and other geographic locations as Santa flies over them. NORAD uses Cesium 3D technology and AGI engineering software. The trackers also cover slightly different routes around the world.
The formulas each organization used for miles traveled and gifts delivered is also different. At the end of Santa’s trip, Google showed 7.7 billion gifts delivered, compared to 7.6 billion for NORAD. Google tracked Santa’s total mileage covered at 213029 miles.
Even with the differences in gifts delivered as measured by the two services, it is well into the billions. Santa deserves his next several months of rest.