Dougal Campbell's geek ramblings

WordPress, web development, and world domination.

WordPress 3.0 Multisite Terminology

One of the big changes coming in WordPress 3.0 is the merge of the WordPress MU code into the standard stand-alone WordPress codebase. When WordPress 3.0 is released, you will be able to choose to install it either as a single site, or in multi-site mode. With the migration from WordPress MU (MultiUser) to WordPress 3.0 (Multisite), I think there is a need for us to clarify some terminology. On the wp-hackers mailing list, I’ve seen several instances where people used the word “site” to mean different things, depending on who is writing, and the context of what they are trying to say.There is some overlap currently between how we discuss an individual site within the setup, versus the overall system which contains those sites.

In WordPress MU, the term “site” tended to refer to the overall installation, covering multiple “blogs”. With WordPress 3.0 in Multisite mode, some people are conflating the terms “blog” and “site”, and it appears that “site” would be the preferred term. The new term for the overall system is “network”, as evidenced by the new Network Settings page. So instead of a “site” which contains multiple “blogs”, we have a “network” which contains multiple “sites”.

The change in terminology might cause some confusion at first, especially among people who are already familiar with WordPress MU, and are used to the old terms. But I think that saying “site” instead of “blog” is better, because it avoids confusion for people who are building websites that are not blogs. With that in mind, it makes a lot of sense to talk about a WordPress installation as a network of sites.

About Dougal Campbell

Dougal is a web developer, and a "Developer Emeritus" for the WordPress platform. When he's not coding PHP, Perl, CSS, JavaScript, or whatnot, he spends time with his wife, three children, a dog, and a cat in their Atlanta area home.
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50 Responses to WordPress 3.0 Multisite Terminology

  1. Viper007Bond says:

    And for clarification, this is just another version of WordPress. It’ll be called WordPress 3.0, that’s it (not “WordPress Multisite).

    One of the features it will have however is the ability to have multiple sites. However that’s just a feature, like tags, embeds, or anything else. πŸ™‚

    • Dougal says:

      Yes, I should probably make that more explicit: WordPress 3.0 can be configured either in the traditional “single-site” mode, or as the new “multi-site” mode, which enables the merged-in code from WPMU. Also, WP 3.0 is still in early development, and final release is months away (mid-April-ish, from estimates).

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  4. Faith says:

    This sounds cool as to the re naming But question-will we still be able to host it our self as I do on hostgator and such ?

    • Dougal says:

      If you install in single-site mode, there shouldn’t be any difference in your hosting options. If you want to run in multisite-mode (just as with WPMU now), you may require more robust hosting.

  5. Any idea how this will effect sites built on WPMU already? My site uses WPMU and BuddyPress to create what I call a “Social Learning Platform”. We have a number of custom plugins created using the features of WPMU and BuddyPress to do this. It essentially allows me to deliver all of my products and coaching programs on separate blogs within the network of blogs. Do you anticipate that using WordPress 3.0 will cause us any major issues when we upgrade and select multi-site feature? If so, will there be any developer help available?

    • Dougal says:

      All indications are that the development team will make it as easy as possible to migrate a WPMU system to the new WPMS system.

      When the time comes, you’ll obviously want to make a full backup of your database and files before attempting the migration, of course, just in case. I wouldn’t worry too much about it just yet. As I mentioned, the new version is still months away. But when the beta version is announced, I would recommend setting up a test copy of your site on a separate server, and trying the upgrade there, first.

    • Andrea_r says:

      I’ve tried this in a dev environment, installing the current version of MU then upgrading to trunk. Worked fine.

      that’s the key – everyone on MU now will upgrade as usual, but to WP 3.0.

  6. Ade says:

    Thanks for the post. I think the new terminology makes more sense and gets away from this “blog” thing, which can be off-putting for some. πŸ™‚

    Something I am keen to find out is how, as a plugin author, to differentiate between multi-site and single-site installs. Currently, I use function_exists checks on wpmu_create_blog to determine whether the plugin is installed on MU. I wonder if a different method will be needed in WP 3.0.

    • Dougal says:

      I’m sure that all of the old functions should still work. Though, some of them might be deprecated and serve merely as aliases to newer versions based on the “multisite” terminology.

      I think the new, official way is going to be via a new is_multisite() function.

      • Ade says:

        Thanks Dougal. That makes sense. πŸ™‚

        • Andrea_r says:

          Just pay attention to trac, because there are some naming changes. πŸ™‚ Probably will be an eventual post somewhere if there’s anything plugin devs need to watch out for.

          (which means, feel free to remind me to write such a post if no one else does πŸ˜€ )

  7. Thanks for the clarifications. I think that has been confusing some folks. I also agree with Ade that it’s beneficial to get away from the term blog as I have had to convince a few clients that WordPress is not just for blogging anymore.

  8. SM says:

    Ok, but for those of us who never use WordPress MU, what are the differences between having a standalone site with many authors writing on the blog versus a WP MU installation with many users with their own blogs? What are the real differences we should be looking at? This needs to be clearer to those of us who will be upgrading to 3.0 but who have never really looked at the MU version.

    • Mosey says:

      I’d love to find out more about this as well – particularly with examples. Thanks.

    • Dougal says:

      The main difference is that with multisite, you actually have, well, multiple sites. πŸ™‚ There is a “Super Admin” who can manage network-wide options, themes, and plugins.

      Each site within your network can have its own themes, a separate set of posts, links, etc., much like a regular install of WordPress.

      But… Users are “global” in the network of sites, though they have separate permissions on each site. You might be an Admin in your own site, a Contributor on a second site, and have no special privileges at all on the rest of the sites.

      Generally, only the Super Admin can install plugins. Plugins can be installed in a way that they are “always on”, network-wide, or so that they can be activated, deactivated, and configured on individual sites by their respective Admins.

      The Super Admin can select which themes are available to sites, network-wide, or on a site-by-site basis.

      Those are the main things that spring to mind, based on my admittedly limited experience with WPMU.

      • Mosey says:

        Thanks Dougal πŸ™‚

        This sounds like a really good idea – I currently run 2-3 WP sites using separate WP installations and upgrading can be a bit of a pain with plugins/themes etc. so am hoping it will be possible to keep sites in the network completely separate (as they’re not really about the same things) with different domain names but all under one installation.

  9. Hikari says:

    But for commercial matters and for large… systems, this MultiSite feature is THE feature πŸ˜›

    Currently I have 2 sites and I’m wanting to start a 3rd, I wonder if I’ll be able to keep my current database and configs and create another site over 1 of these current sites, or even merge both and start a new one among them.

    3.o will require A LOOOOOT of testing :/

  10. palPalani says:

    In multi-site mode, can we use separate database for each site?

    • Dougal says:

      AFAIK, the database structure will be just as it is for WPMU now. All tables go into a single database. There is a set of tables which are network-wide (users, network-wide options, and “main site” blog stuff), and then each site within the network has a set of tables (posts, comments, categories, links, site-specific options).

      If you are concerned about scalability, larger installations can look into HyperDB to spread the database out among multiple servers.

  11. Ryan says:

    This makes complete sense. Thanks for clarifying.

    I like the use of the word “network”, I hadn’t use that term used before in this context, but it makes complete sense to me.

  12. Chris Cree says:

    That change in terminology makes a whole lot of sense to me as long time user of WPMU. It’ll make it easier for me to explain things when I’m talking with a client on a project right now. They see their project as a group of websites, not a group of blogs so network/sites will make more sense to them than the site/blogs terminology I’ve been using.

    Thanks for thinking this one through for us! πŸ™‚

  13. Waiting for new version, but I thinhing how MU will be work with this (speed) (?)

  14. goofydg1 says:

    I’m really looking forward to this feature. I never really agreed with MU being outside of WordPress as I see that being a great feature to be able to add to your site. Being able to have other family members create their own content under one umbrella. Plus, I could never really get MU to work right in my test environments.

  15. Jpotkanski says:

    I suppose you’ll have to consider taht the multi-site plugin of Mu will have to be renamed to multi-domain?

    WP 3.0
    —- <– Site
    \foo <– Blog
    \bar <– Blog <– Site
    \zig <– Blog
    \zag <– Blog

    The combination of everything? Network? Multi-domain?


  16. Network Geek says:

    So, if we go “single-site” in the new version or upgrade, can we convert that to “multi-site” later? Or is it a “Choose wisely” thing because there are no do-overs?

    Not sure that it would make a difference to me, honestly, but I like to keep my options open.

    • Dougal says:

      From what I recall hearing at WordCamp Atlanta, the plan is that there will be a way to reconfigure from a single-site to multisite. And there may be a way (don’t quote me on this) to switch from multisite down to single-site (probably just the “main” site). Of course, you’d always have the option of doing an Export of a site, and then Importing it into a fresh install, though that might have some minor disadvantages.

      That said, it’s probably still a “choose wisely” sort of thing, just to avoid complications. πŸ™‚

      • Andrea_r says:

        Actually… πŸ˜€ the current trunk version has a handy menu item to enable the Network. If you make backup copies of the single WP htaccess & wp-config, you can put those back to turn off the network again.

  17. tom brander says:

    any clues as to memory diff between base single and mu option active? all other same and then one more site?

  18. goofydg1 says:

    Does this mean that BuddyPress will now work with WordPress natively? I’m hoping it can solve the multi-domain issue as well. Would love to have more control at that level.

  19. Kevin says:

    wow, this looks like a big great update. anybody knows when it will release?
    greetings Kevin

  20. Looking forward to the release! It seems WordPress really continues to innovate with every major version.

  21. Britta says:

    what do you mean with” you will be able to choose to install it either as a single site, or in multi-site mode.”??
    Ehm, there is right that you mean the server install?
    Does is mean, that it possible that I dont have to install the whole paket like the navigation?
    Is someone knows where and when I can download the update?


    • susan says:

      hi Britta. it thing it means that you can install it for only one blog or for more blogs also that can make more people blogs on it like i don’t know if this is right but i hope it πŸ™‚ so far susan πŸ™‚

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  23. Andy Beard says:

    One thing which I am not sure was ever cured with public WPMU installations (though been a while since I researched it) was the concept of global login or possibly multiple aliases.

    Will there be an option to have shared login between 2 sites?

    I know not everyone uses multiple online aliases, and it is not something I have done in the past, but I am sure it is a concern for some.

    It is also an issue with membership sites where someone might be a member on one site, and had to provide an email address on signup.
    When that person goes to another site, they may already be a member, which might provide access to content they shouldn’t receive or circumvent the email requirement.

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  25. Seeming assumptive to the expel! It looks WordPress rattling persists in to innovate with every prima translation.

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  30. Seo man says:

    it worked fine…

  31. PROJEKT SEO says:

    Time working for us

  32. The current WordPress is something completely different than in 2010.

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