The first Burning Man website — a page, really — appeared in 1994 on the WeLL, a Sausalito-based Internet provider. That held down the fort until a 100% volunteer team comprised of Eric Waterman, Rusty Hodge, Scott Beale and Marian Goodell launched the first use of the Burning Man domain Burningman.com on April 1, 1997. The site went through a number of rapid iterations as the technology evolved and the community’s population exploded. This rapid growth evened out in 2001, and the last time Burning Man’s website got a facelift was in 2003.
Until today. Now that tectonic technological shifts have left Burningman.com verging on obsolescence, and the Burning Man organization has transitioned into a non-profit (some would say an equally earth-shaking occurrence), it was time to bring the site — and our story — into the modern era.
While the dream of Burningman.org started bouncing around our brains years ago, we kicked off the daunting process of creating it about 12 months ago. It would require the marrying of Burningman.com, Burningmanproject.org, Blackrockarts.org, and bringing a number of other Burning Man website properties into the fold. And, it would require sewing them all together into an information architecture that would create a seamless, sensible whole.
We chose to go with WordPress, and Burning Man’s tech team went to work making it do a whole host of amazing and unnatural things, including crafting it into a robust, customized publishing system. Our design team was determined not only to bring the site up to modern standards (responsive design, for instance), but to surpass them. The content team dug through an absolute mountain of content — a mountain sitting atop a massive underground cavern, filled with historical treasures that many of us didn’t even know existed. And we went about surfacing the rich visual history of this culture, thanks to the amazing photographers and videographers in our community.
Our goal with Burningman.org was to create the ultimate storytelling tool for Burning Man — to support and honor its growth as a global culture making a significant impact in the world. Burning Man is no longer just about the event in Black Rock City. It’s about people living Burning Man every day, everywhere. Burningman.org tells the story of an event that spawned a culture that is supported and spread by a network of like-minded, interconnected individuals on five continents around the world.
A key part of that story is our historical roots, knowledge of which is important for anybody wanting to be a part of this grand experiment, even if you never attend the event in Black Rock City. So we unearthed all that historical treasure from beneath the mountain of content, and we brought it out into the light — we’re especially excited about our Historical Timeline and Event Archives.
Another key aspect of our culture is participation. You’ll find opportunities — and inspiration — to participate throughout the site, whether in person or online, in Black Rock City or your home town. Over time, we’ll add more features that engage and encourage direct participation, including new ways to join discussions about the information, ideas and issues that affect our community, whether that’s “what’s the best way to build a shade structure?” or “how do I build a real-world business that rhymes with the Ten Principles?”.
In taking nearly 5,000 pages (yes, really) and consolidating them into 1,800, we endeavored to balance what our website visitors want to know with what would inspire them about being a part of this culture. We’re proud of what we’ve built, and we hope it makes you proud to be a Burner.
If you experience any problems with the site, or see something we missed, please let us know through the Contact Us page. And if you want to know who worked on this complex project, check out the (very short, relative to the immensity of the project) list of folks who built this thing.
[Editor’s Note: We’ve been typing “burningman.com” about 50 times a day, every day for the last 11 years — possibly the hardest part of this project will be breaking that habit.]