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.