Everything you Need to Know About WordPress Multisite

What is WordPress Multisite?

Traditionally, in order to host multiple blogs on one instance, you used WordPress MU (multiuser, also known as WPMU), a completely different version of WordPress. However, MU is now renamed Multisite and integrated into the usual WordPress installation as of version 3.0, making it easy to set up your own blog network simply by activating Multisite and making a few additional adjustments. Multisite WordPress allows you to manage multiple blogs from one admin dashboard.

Before reading on here are a few terms applicable to WP Multisite that you should get familiar with, if you aren’t already:

  • WordPress multi site – a WordPress installation with Multisite enabled
  • Blog Network – a group of blogs tied to the main blog; Multisite supports only one Network, but there is a plugin allowing you to create separate networks.
  • Super Admin – in regular WordPress, the “administrator” role has full control permissions on the site. Multisite WordPress still allows an administrator role for each site, but there is a “super administrator” role allowing one site login that has access to every site on the WordPress network, and the ability to access everything on each site.
  • Network Admin Dashboard – with WordPress 3.1, the super admin dashboard has been relocated and is accessible by clicking the “Network Admin” link on the My Sites dropdown menu in the standard WordPress admin dashboard.

Benefits of Multisite

Multisite WordPress lets you run unlimited sites from a WordPress installation. It’s perfect for those who want to operate more than one blog, or provide blog hosting services to others. Edublogs.org is a good example of a blog network that runs from WordPress Multisite. The University of Maine (http://umaine.edu/), and WordPress.com itself are all Multisite blog hosts. The ability to create and manage different sites as one network from a central dashboard is a great advantage over having to operate multiple hosting accounts or repeated installations of WordPress.

Other benefits include:

  • You only need to update one installation of WordPress when new versions, themes, or plugins become available.
  • It can be set up to allow other users to manage their blogs on your network from their own site dashboard.
  • Even with many blogs, you can manage all sites and user accounts from the Network dashboard.
  • The Network dashboard is very similar to the standard WordPress admin dashboard and easy for WordPress users to adjust to.
    WordPress Multisite domain mapping

Easy Themes and Plugins Management

One major difference between standard WordPress and WordPress Multisite is managing themes and plugins. In Multisite, themes and plugins are installed from the Network Admin dashboard, but are available for use to any site on the network. You install a plugin using “network activate” and a theme with “network enable” which makes them visible to all sites. Otherwise the theme or plugins can be activated individually from by each site admin.

WordPress Multisite Setup

Multisite is really a mode which can be enabled or disabled, but it isn’t so simple. Before using it, you might want to consult the WordPress Codex on creating a WordPress network. You’ll also want to be sure and check that your webhost server will actually support Multiuser, because some don’t. Also be aware that Multiuser takes up more server resources than a single site, so if you have a limited shared hosting plan, you’ll probably want to upgrade or you’ll run out of memory fairly quickly. There are a few steps to follow to WordPress enable Multisite:

  1. If you’re ready to proceed, there’s a bit of code you can get from wordpress.org which must be added to your wp-config.php file to create the network setup screen.
  2. Once you get to the setup screen, follow the instructions as they are given. It’s also a good idea to have the Codex open in another window so that you refer to it as needed.
  3. At some point you’ll be asked whether you want to create subdomains or sub-directories. If you choose to use WordPress Multisite domain mapping, you can’t change it later without starting all over again from scratch.

If you’ve correctly followed WordPress Multisite installation instructions, it only takes a few minutes to get Multisite up and running, and you’ll be able to add additional sites.


If you’re used to managing a WordPress site, you should be fairly comfortable managing a Multisite installation. But here are a few tools that might come in handy:

1. Keep a link to the WordPress.org Multisite instructions (given above) handy.

2. WordPress Multisite Domain Mapping plugin

3. Gravity Forms User Registration plugin: This allows you to create a front-end form where visitors can register new sites on your network.

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