I was honored to be invited to WordCamp Detroit this year to give a presentation on WordPress Multisite. The attendees were an interesting mix of beginners and advanced users, so I took the chance to hopefully encourage those who are close to trying Multisite out, and to give some useful tips to those working with it right now.
What is WordPress Multisite?
Assuming you’re completely up to date with your WordPress installation—and nobody here would ever fall behind in their upgrades, right?—then Multisite is already a part of your WordPress site. It just isn’t turned on.
Whereas by default WordPress gives you one site or blog to run with, turning on Multisite allows you to launch additional sites off of your main blog. So while a normal WordPress site URL structure might look like this:
a Multisite’s additional sites’ URLs will look like this:
So, who cares?
There are a number of ways using Multisite can help you. Depending on your situation you could :
- Save time by running many sites as one. Among other things, install and upgrade WordPress, themes, and Plugins only once.
- Offer a blog to each of your visitors. It might not work in every community, but for the right groups it can be a nice complement to your site.
- Manage your client’s site, and control just what they have access to.
Examples of Multisite
If it helps, have a look at some prominent examples of Multisite in action:
You can see other examples of Multisite at the WordPress Showcase.
Where Multisite came from
Multisite wasn’t always exactly what it is today. And since you can’t really understand something without knowing where it came from, let’s briefly look at its history.
There used to be two projects, WordPress and WordPressμ. The μ version is what enabled the network capabilities that we know as Multisite today. The problem was, μ stood as a separate software project from WordPress. WordPressμ shared most of WordPress’ codebase, but was always updated later, keeping it always a version or two behind WordPress proper.
Needless to say, this was less than ideal.
Then, in March of 2010 “the merge” was completed, rolling μ functionality into WordPress 3.0. And the world got a little bit better for everyone.
Use Multisite today
We’re not going to jump into how to set up Multisite, since this is more of an introduction than it is a tutorial or walkthrough. But to give you an idea of what you can do with it when you start, check out a couple of these Plugins:
- Map domains with the Domain Mapping Plugin.
- Create a blog network, and use Sitewide Tags to aggregate all of your content into one place.
- Post to all of your networked blogs at once using the Multipost Plugin.
- See other Multisite Plugins on the WordPress.org directory.
Learn more from other, smarter people
I like to joke that any conversation or presentation about Multisite is just a roundabout way of linking back to something that Ron or Andrea Rennick have done. These two have spent an awful lot of time learning everything there is to know about Multisite and WordPress networking.
So I have a few sites you can reference here, but most of them will be theirs.
As any decent slides go, mine aren’t very useful without the accompanying presentation. That said, the video of the presentation should be coming along soon, and I’ll add it when I can.
Your turn to share
I find that there are usually misgivings or questions that people have about Multisite that hold them back from really trying it out. What’s been stopping you from giving it a shot?
If you have used Multisite before, why don’t you jump over to our discussion post on it and tell us about your experience.
If you’ve been convinced to try multisite, take the plunge with our tutorial showing you how to enable it on your WordPress 3.0+ installation.