Enabling WordPress Multisite

On April 12, 2012, in Research, by Chris Prom

If you are going to be using wordpress as a CMS for an organization with many subgroups, you may wish to enable WordPress Multisite.

Multisite allows you to run many WordPress sites as a network  within a single installation.  In the case of the University of Illinois Archives, several of our program areas, such as the Student Life and Culture and Sousa Archives, would like to have blogs and other features.  These will be separate from the main site.  They will have a separate set of users, a different look and feel, and some diffierent features.  By using mulitsite, we can provide them a separate identify while also allowing content to feed into and nest within into the main site.

So, to set the basis for long term growth, our first step after installing WordPress is to enable it for multisite usage.  It is best to enable it right away, even if you won’t be using all of its features, if you plan to use it in the future.* Before beginning, it is a good idea to read the wordpress.org pages Before you Create a Network.

First, we enable multisite mode by editing the file wp-config.php to insert the  following code:

define('WP_ALLOW_MULTISITE', true);

Enabling WordPress Network

Once this has been completed, the option “Network Settings,” appears in the Dashboard, under the Tools menu.  When enabling the network, you make a one-time decision as to whether the sub-sites should be created as sub-domains or sub-folders.

Enabling the Network


In order to use the sub-domain option, your webserver must allow for the creation of new sub-domains on the fly.  You will likely need to see a system administrator to ensure that this is the case.  It is much easier to configure the network to use sub-folders.  It suits our needs better, so I choose that option.

After clicking through, you will need to edit two files on the server: wp-config.php and .htaccess.  WordPress tells you the exact changes that need to be made, and you should cut and past the provided code into the two files, the save them.  You can do this from the command line using vim or by using FTP and a text editor.  (.htaccess is a hidden file that is used by an apache webserver to record rules as to server operations in the directory where it is found; common uses are to include URL rewrite rules.)

After you have save the changes, you will need to login to wordpress, before you can use the multisite features. If the login is not being accepted, you should clear your browser cache and cookies and/or generate a new set of secret keys to replace the existing ones in the wp-config.php file.

*While it is not impossible to enable multisite later in time you will find it harder to do.  You may not be able to create the sub-sites using the folder mapping method described above.

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