Multi-blog WordPress needed

I’m working on a couple projects where I’d like to manage multiple WordPress-based sites from a single administration area. Half the reason for this is convenience, having everything accessible from one place, while the other half is to reduce the time and effort needed to keep multiple WordPress installations up-to-date. WP updates come frequently and even checking the code out directly from their Subversion repository is time consuming if you’re managing more than a handful of sites.

What I’d really like to see is a multi-blog version of WordPress. A few other popular blogs/content management systems can do this: Movable Type, Expression Engine, and b2evolution are just a few examples of apps that can run multiple distinct blogs, each with a unique visual style, content, and domain name, all from a single installation. The fact that no one has created a WordPress version that can do this is a little surprising when you consider how many people run more than one site.

I’m seeing this need with some of my own clients and projects. One client is running three WordPress installations in different subdirectories of a single domain, others are running up to dozens of domains each on their own WP instance, and I’m myself thinking about a multi-blog site using WordPress MU.

WordPress MU seems like an obvious way to address this problem. The very first line of copy on its web site is “Ever dream of running hundreds of thousands of blogs with a single install of WordPress?” You would think this would be perfect but the important thing to note about WordPress MU is that the MU stands for multi-user, not multi-blog. It can do multiple blogs managed by a single person or group, but it very clearly wasn’t designed for this and the amount of work required is enough to make me reconsider using it. Another strike against it is that it doesn’t support multiple domains out of the box. There are a couple ways of hacking this functionality on, but it’s extremely ugly. I cringe at the thought of turning a WordPress MU site over to an end-user who just wants to manage his blogs. It’s a powerful system and works well for its purpose, but its not designed to meet the need I’m describing.

Switching to MovableType or ExpressionEngine might be something to consider for the multi-blog site I’m working on for myself, but it isn’t the answer for clients, most of whom already have WordPress themes and plugins they need to use. With this rather obvious gap in the market, why hasn’t anyone come up with a solution? Hopefully the fact that Six Apart has recently opensourced Movable Type will motivate the WordPress developers to get something done in this area.

Comments

Marco says:

b2evolution is a cousin of wordpress designed exactly for that. I would risk saying that the themes/skins are similar enough for porting designs from the one to another a reasonable task.

Kenn Christ says:

I took a brief look at b2 while considering this issue but decided against it. Part of the reason is my clients — They’re mostly running WordPress, which means they have themes, an interface, and specific functionality (be it core or via plugins) they’re used to and I’m not going to persuade them to change.

Regarding my own sites — well, pretty much the same thing applies. I really don’t have the time nor the inclination to rewrite the themes for a handful of sites, and then learn how to use b2, hunt down plugins or whatever comparable to what I’m using in WP, and so on.

I decided I’d rather expend the effort into working out a way make WP do multiple blogs rather than switch to something else. I quite like WordPress, despite its flaws, and would prefer to continue using it. I’ve got some ideas for multi-blog management but still have some work to do before I put it to use.

glenn says:

Have you looked at the Lyceum Project? It’s a “…multi-blog derivative of WordPress, suitable for installations with 2 or 2,000,000 blogs!”

Might be close you need… ;-)

Kenn Christ says:

I looked at Lyceum last year but it wasn’t nearly ready for use yet. I even had a test installation for a while.

I think Lyceum probably suffers from the same problem as WordPress MU. Namely, that it’s for multi-user blog networks, not for multiple blogs run by a single person or group.

glenn says:

True. You’re probably right. It was mainly that it overcame MU’s limitation of needing a separate account for each blog…

There is LifeType too… but I think that it’ll have the same problems (and it can’t use WP plugins).

Your search continues, eh? ;-)

Kenn Christ says:

The one-to-one user-blog thing in WPMU was, along with differing opinions on how large databases should be set up, the reason for Lyceum’s birth. But shortly after this a new WPMU release removed this restriction so that a single user can now have any number of blogs. That, and the fact that it’s much more mature than Lyceum (the product, if not the user community) is why I focused my interest there instead.

I’ve never heard of LifeType before now. It doesn’t solve my problem but I’ll check it out just for the sake of keeping up with what’s going on in this area. Thanks.

Henry says:

I’m having he EXACT same issue. I was very surprised to find that WordPress did not have the functionality. I started with B2E but moved to WordPress because I felt the plugins were better but now I’m struggling to get the multiple blogs I need. Please help us WordPress Devs. Bring us back into modernity.

Kenn Christ says:

I’ve hacked up some WP multi-blog functionality by adding some code to wp-config.php that checks the HTTP host header and sets a database table prefix appropriately. I may write up some details once I’ve got it polished but that should be enough to get you started.

Hi Chris. The same issue. I need a 1 WP blog for multi domain use. The problem is I’m new to WP. Could you give me some clues on where to look to do some changes.
Best regards

Kenn Christ says:

Who’s Chris?

Konstantin: The modification I mentioned above requires some PHP and database knowledge, as well as familiarity with WordPress. If you’re not able to do it yourself, my consulting services are available. Drop me a note if you want to talk about it.

Al Altan says:

It’s amazing that this has not been built by someone out there. I personally have more than 5 blogs right now and updating the WP and all the plug-ins is like a full time job…takes way too much time. Having one interface controlling all my WP installs, a place where I can drop in or delete plug ins across all my domains hosted on different servers would save me so much time. I know I would be one of the first to buy something like this.

Kenn Christ says:

Al: Stay tuned. I’m working on two different ways to run multiple blogs/domains on a single WP installation and single plugin store, while keeping entirely separate content and settings. Nothing is polished enough to publish just yet but I will be writing them up when they are.

Thell says:

Kenn,
Just ran across your post here and noted the 4/17/08 comment. Have you made much headway? Also, have you gotten involved with the WPMU community for input/sharing? ie the MU Advanced forums or wpmudev.org?

Thell

Kenn says:

Thell: I haven’t had time to do anything with this idea since then, but I’ve been thinking about it again lately. WordPress 2.6 has some nice features that will make this even easier and I’m hoping to revisit it within the next month or so.

Anything I come up with will be written up over at Corvid Works.