WordPress 3.0: Multisite Networks

WordPress 3.0 is due in May (i.e. next month) according to the roadmap at WordPress.org. The Codex entry for 3.0 lists highlights, starting with new menu management.

This posts focuses on the highlights that come at the end of the list: “WordPress and WPMU code merged” and “Configure a Network (multisite/WPMU).” What does that mean? Well, right now, installing WordPress and creating a blog are pretty much the same thing. If you want another blog, you install WordPress again. If you have lots of blogs, you have lots of installations to maintain.

That’s where WPMU comes in. You can run multiple blogs from a single installation of WPMU. The MU stands for multi-user. I’ve always found that rather confusing, because you can have multiple users on a single WordPress blog.

So, starting with WordPress 3.0, you’ll be able to run multiple blogs from a single install of WordPress. Actually, in the terms introduced in 3.0, you’ll be able to run multiple sites, and the collection of sites is called a network. (If you want to read more about the change in terminology, see Dougal Campbell’s post.)

I just tried out the multisite network feature at andux.org/wordplay. First, I installed WordPress 3.0, beta 1. That didn’t give WordPlay the multisite capability. By default, and I think it’s the right default, a 3.0 installation supports exactly one blog. Enabling the multisite network feature is a distinct step, involving the editing of wp-config.php and other files.

It was then easy to create a second blog running off the same install. I now get to be… Super Admin! No, that doesn’t involve a costume. It means that I am the admin for the whole network, and am able to make changes to the whole network of blogs (I should rather say network of sites).

I can create new users for the network, assigning roles per user/blog combination. For example, the user watson is an admin for blog #2 in the network, but only a subscriber for blog #1. Similarly, themes can be enabled on a site by site basis.

Multisite networks is, for me, the most interesting new feature of WordPress 3.0, and the best reason for this release to get a new integer (i.e. 3.0 rather than 2.next). That’s partly because I’ve always been interested in WPMU, and indeed used to blog about WPMU.

That said, I don’t think that the multisite feature of 3.0 will make much difference to WordPress.com, which is where changingway.org lives. WordPress.com currently runs WPMU to host millions of blogs: now that’s multisite!

I’ll try out, and post here about, other features of 3.0. Next up will probably be custom post types.