WordPress Multisite is a special configuration of WordPress that enables webmasters to launch several websites off of the main WordPress installation. This simply means that one deployment of WordPress with the Multisite mode enabled may host many WordPress websites.
With earlier versions of the WordPress platform, the Multisite feature was only available with WordPress MU. WordPress MU was the “multi-user” iteration of the platform. However, as of the rollout of WordPress 3.0, the multi-user feature was combined with the standard installation of the platform. In current versions of WordPress, the multi-user features is included, and may be enabled or disabled by the WordPress platform administrator.
Perhaps the most notable deployment of WordPress Multisite is the WordPress.com blogging platform. WordPress.com allows users to create their own blog site on the hosted platform. WordPress Multisite has been enabled to create this functionality on WordPress.com. Each blog site that is created is its own entity.
University and Blogging Websites
University websites that provide web space for various departments and colleges are another possibility for implementing the WordPress Multisite feature. Websites that offer bloggers the opportunity to create their own blog sites, such as “Teach For Us,” are also good candidates for the use of WordPress Multisite.
WordPress versus WordPress Multisite
WordPress functionality includes the administrator security role. The administrator is able to access the WordPress dashboard to add and edit pages, as well as make changes to the site structure. This role also has the ability to add, manage and delete users. WordPress Multisite includes a “super administrator” role. This role has “god rights.” In other words, the super administrator role includes administrative rights for each site. In addition, the super administrator role is able to manage every aspect of the entire WordPress deployment. These rights include the ability to create new site administrators, or to remove them, as well as the ability to add or delete sites from the platform.
The super administrator level of access may also administer network-wide settings for the platform. For example, themes and plug-ins are managed by the network administrator role in WordPress Multisite. Plug-ins and themes are installed at the network level and made available to all sites deployed within the Multisite platform.
Deploying WordPress Multisite
Though Multisite is included with WordPress 3.0 and above, the feature must be correctly configured in order to function properly. Because Multisite requires more server resources than the standard deployment of WordPress, a shared hosting account is not recommended for deployment of Multisite. Check with your web hosting provide to determine if the host supports deployment of Multisite. Some hosts will and others will not.
Obtain a copy of the WordPress Codex named “Creating a Network” (http://codex.wordpress.org/Create_A_Network). This guide provides the step-by-step process of enabling the Multisite feature. The codex instructs the webmaster to insert a code snippet into the wp-config.php page. This code snippet provides the network administration features. Once the network administration features are enabled, the on-screen instructions walks the webmaster through the remainder of the setup process.
One decision the webmaster will need to make during the setup process is whether to use subdomains or subdirectories to delineate the subsites. This decision is not reversible so be sure that you are prepared to make this determination during the setup process.
Once Multisite is configured by stepping through the instructions provided in the network administration interface, Multisite is deployed and ready to use.
As with a standard WordPress deployment, plug-ins are available to add functionality to the Multisite platform. Plug-ins include the WordPress Blog Replicator, Gravity Forms and User Registration and WordPress MU Domain Mapping.
WordPress Multisite is a great feature for webmasters for deploying platforms that will host subsites under one domain. For example, if you have a domain named www.mywordpress.com, subsites set up as subdomains might include user1.mywordpress.com as a subdomain where “user1“ is User #1‘s own website. WordPress Multisite extends the functionality of WordPress to enable one installation of WordPress to perform as a hosting platform for a collection of additional WordPress sites.