NORAD (the North American Aerospace Defense Command) has been following Santa's every move since the winter of 1955. Google got into the tracking game much later, starting its Santa surveillance in 2004 and only building a dedicated site two years ago. Unsurprisingly, the two handle the job very differently.
Here, some of the more important differences between the two:
How it started:
NORAD's Santa Tracker began nearly 60 years ago when a misprint in a Sears Roebuck & Co. advertisement directed kids to dial Santa at the number for the Continental Air Defense Command, NORAD's predecessor. Operators there took the curious calls in stride and a tradition was born.
Google began tracking Santa on Google Earth in 2004, using NORAD's sleigh-location updates. In 2007, that grew into a partnership between the two, and in 2012, Google spun off a competitive tracking site.
The tracking experience:
Each site's look and feel fits with the organization behind the magic. NORAD's tracker shows Santa and his reindeer team flying over a NASA satellite map, complete with topographic features and major roadways. A digital-clock-like readout shows a tally of presents delivered, latest Santa sighting and next stop.
Google's tracker looks like, well, exactly what you would expect a Google Santa tracker to look like. It's bright, cartoonish and adorable. The map details are limited and Santa is a smiling avatar, bouncing from city to village to town, waving at you all the way.
Advantage: NORAD. It's a little military-looking, but more dynamic. Google deserves an honorable mention for the cute animation of Santa touching down and tossing gifts into a chimney in an over-the-head, no-look style.
The (jingle) bells and whistles:
Google keeps a running timeline of events loaded with cartoon videos, games, city information and other Google Doodle-like extras. There's always something cute calling out for your attention. You could probably spend hours exploring the little universe and finding new details and Easter eggs.
NORAD also offers games, movies and music, but they're not integrated as well into the experience. You can get additional information about Santa's stops here, too -- via a lackluster overlay of Bing search results.
Believe it or not, NORAD's got the edge here. It offers official apps for iOS devices, Android and Windows phones. Google stays true to the brand. There's an Android app that can also be linked up to the TV via Chromecast.
Final score: Age beats beauty, by the numbers, making NORAD the clear master of Santa stalking. But if you're a sucker for the Google aesthetic, or just want to be kept entertained for longer, the modern tracker is your better bet.