Rob Howard rocked the boat last week in calling for the deprecation of WordPress multisite in the latest MasterWP newsletter. He argued that “the brave and noble add-on is no longer necessary or valuable to developers.” The responses via Twitter were swift and in disagreement.
Before WordPress 3.0, multisite was an entirely separate system called WPMU (WordPress MultiUser). It was a mess to set up, and one of the best things to ever happen to it was that it was rolled into core WordPress. It became a first-class citizen in the WordPress world, and its setup is now simple enough that nearly anyone can get a network up and running in no time.
I have not used multisite much in my career in the WordPress space. My primary use case has been for setting up theme and plugin demos. These are sites that I do not intend to touch much outside of their initial setup. Multisite always makes it easy to manage theme and plugin updates from the network admin.
Howard argued that this is no longer necessary in today’s world:
Likewise, sharing themes and plugins between sites no longer seems like a benefit to developers or end-users. With one click, we can deploy a parent theme from a Git repository to an unlimited number of sites hosted anywhere in the world – so what’s the real value of having a theme on the Multisite network?
Even with the vast tools available for deploying such things via Git, sometimes I prefer to avoid complicating matters. I can work in the command line well enough, but having that central location to manage all of my sites in one place is simpler. The argument also leaves out an entire segment of users who run multisite and have never even heard of Git. Multisite is sometimes a user tool.
The most complex multisite setup I have worked on was for a university. I was contracted to do some development work for another WordPress agency a few years ago. My focus area was extending the user role and permissions system.
The network had sites for each school, department, and various other projects. Setting all of this up on multisite allowed the permanent dev team to create new sites on an as-needed basis instead of spinning up an entirely new WordPress install. Everyone also had user access via their university email and password. It is possible to share a user database via multiple single-site installs, but it adds another layer of complexity that does not exist with multisite.
I cannot imagine the agency running this through 100s of individual installs. I am sure that some systems would make this easier, but a solution already exists in WordPress.
My multisite experience is limited. However, I have routinely talked with and helped fellow developers actively working on networks with 1,000s of sites in the enterprise and education sectors. It is almost a given that they are running multisite for every job.
WordPress co-founder Mike Little explained why multisite is often necessary for
This article was written by Justin Tadlock and originally published on WP Tavern.