What Is WordPress MultiSite Or A WordPress Network?

You might have heard the name mentioned before, whether it was one of the older names “WordPress MultiSite,” “WordPress MU,” “WordPress MultiUser,” or the more modern name “WordPress Network,” but aren’t exactly sure what it is. Well, there is a technical and general definition that I’d like to share in this article today.

WordPress create a network page

WordPress.com Is A WordPress Network – You Can Also Convert An Existing Self Hosted WordPress Installation Into A Network

As the name implies, WordPress Network is simply a network of sites that all belong to the same domain name. As a prime example, we have WordPress.com, which should not be confused with WordPress.org. The .org site gives us the files and information needed for self-hosted WordPress sites and networks, whereas the .com site lets us create a free WordPress site, but on a domain that we do not own.

So, for example, if we decide to start a site or blog, we can visit WordPress.com and start a site on that domain by creating a subdomain where our site will reside. So, our site URL would be whatever.wordpress.com. That is the “network” part of WordPress at work. WordPress.com happens to be a general site allowing for web sites on pretty much all topics, providing they are legal of course.

Now, if we have a self hosted web site with WordPress installed we can convert it to a network with a few simple steps. Once converted, we can either manually create sites on te network, or just like WordPress.com we can let people create sites on the network themselves.

When Letting People Create Sites Themselves On Our WordPress Network, We Have To Set Up A WildCard SubDomain For It To Work

If creating sites in our self-hosted WordPress network manually we would create subdomains manually (or use subfolders for new sites). But if we want others to be able to create sites without us having to manually create a subdomain on the server each time, wildcard subdomains are needed.

The way the Network works is it uses just one database for WordPress. Plus, there is only one set of core WordPress files, regardless of how many sites make up the network. So, when using subdomains (as opposed to subfolders) we have to tell the server to look to the main domain (the main WordPress install) everytime a subdomain is accessed.

For example, when someone browses to subdomain.domain.com, if the wildcard subdomain is configured correctly, it will essentially “point” to domain.com and tell WordPress to look for the site that matches “subdomain,” if it exists.

Then, when WordPress matches the subdomain it will pull the appropriate data from the database for that particular site. The data will include config settings, theme to be used, plugins that are activated, posts and pages, etc.

Since the sites do not actually exist in the filesystem, just in the database, they are known as “virtual” sites. So, essentially, WordPress Network is a collection of virtual sites. Also, WordPress Network is part of the core WordPress installation files, and no longer a separate application like it once was.

It’s just a matter of adding the correct values in the config files to show the menu options for network setup in the WordPress dashboard.