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December 23, 2005

Online Elves Busy With Holiday Blogs, E-Mails, Santa Tracking



Courtesy of TechWeb News

An Irish telecommunications provider, which offers voice, data and Internet services, has set up a novel way for children to communicate electronically with Santa Claus.

The company, Eircom, launched a delivery service last week that allows children to e-mail their holiday list online, and in turn, the jolly old man from the North Pole responds with a personalized e-mail message and a short video clip.

"E-mails are coming in from all over the world and as far away as Australia and the USA," said Paul Bradley, Eircom spokesman.

Popular technology gift requests range from Apple Computer iPods to Sony Playstation Portable to Microsoft's Xbox 360 game console to Motorola's v3 Razor phone. Traditional gift requests include dolls, doll houses, books and surprises.

All mail is sent out via the same e-mail infrastructure that is used to deliver all customers e-mails. The combined e-mails sent to Santa are insignificant compared with the total number of messages that go via the mail servers in an hour. So it doesn't place any additional pressure on the capacity of the company's mail infrastructure, said Daniel Baltazar, tech and Web operations manager at Eircom.

"We filmed four videos from Santa, two naughty and two nice, and when a person submits an e-wish to Santa the system detects if they selected the good or naughty box and randomly shows one of the videos that match their category," Baltazar said.

The letters Eircom receives from children reassure Santa Claus they've been good and it's safe to head down the chimney on Christmas Eve. There have also been numerous promises of biscuits, carrots, milk and glass or two of "stout for Father Christmas."

But it's not only the children e-mailing Santa Claus. The top five requests from adults include a relationship, car, house, job and peace. Others include magic ointment for arthritis, house deposit for a first time buyer, boyfriend wrapped in a red bow, the lottery numbers, pain-free back and stress-free life, two front teeth, and sunshine.

There are other sites where kids can e-mail Santa Claus. With more than 8 million visitors in 2004, the northpole.com offers puzzles, games and animation. The site is free, but largely remains operational on donations from visitors. There is a Santa Claus's blog at santaspeaking.com. The site offers e-mail service to Santa and North Pole weather reports.

As it has for the past 50 years, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) will track Santa Claus's journey on Christmas Eve. NORAD monitors the skies above Canada and the United States, tracks Santa's progress in six languages. His movement can be tracked online at NORAD.

The site also offers music from the United States Air Force Academy Band, such as Frosty The Snowman. The Naden Band of Maritime Forces Pacific of the Canadian Navy from Esquimalt, British Columbia also offers their rendition of Silent Night.

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