User Capabilities Are Different on Multisite Networks

Network Permissions

WordPress allows you to build multisite networks. This is an awesome feature and enables you to manage many sites from a single WordPress installation.

However, some WordPress features do work differently on a multisite network. If you normally manage a single site, you may have to adjust your thinking. One of these features is permissions.

In this guide, I'll show what to look out for when you're managing users on a multisite network. Click here to see how to modify user permissions on multisite.


Difference #1: The Super Admin role

On a multisite network, there's an extra user role called “Super Admin”. This role does not exist on normal WordPress sites.

By default, only a Super Admin user can access the “Network Admin” area in a multi-site network:

Multi Site Dashboard

Difference #2. Extra Multi-site permissions

Access to key multisite features is controlled by a set of nine capabilities that don't exist on normal WordPress sites:

  1. create_sites
  2. delete_sites
  3. manage_network
  4. manage_network_options
  5. manage_network_plugins
  6. manage_network_themes
  7. manage_network_users
  8. manage_sites
  9. upgrade_network

Difference #3. The Administrator has less power

On a multisite network, anyone in the will have a limited set of capabilities, even on single sites. More than a dozen important capabilities do not apply to the in a network:

  1. update_core
  2. update_plugins
  3. update_themes
  4. install_plugins
  5. install_themes
  6. delete_themes
  7. delete_plugins
  8. edit_plugins
  9. edit_themes
  10. edit_users
  11. add_users
  12. create_users
  13. delete_users
  14. unfiltered_html

This list covers a lot of important WordPress features, so it can lead to some confusion. For example, we had this question from a PublishPress user:

We are finding that, in our Multisite setup, only Network “Super Admins” can edit user accounts. Regular “Administrators” seem to be able to Add and View a list of users, but cannot actually Edit a user's profile.

Their experience was correct. This is not normal WordPress behavior on a single site, but it is for a multisite network. Users in the Administrator role do not have the manage_network_users capability, so they can't edit user accounts.

And even if the Administrator does have the edit_plugins capability, this is overriden by the fact that they don't have the manage_network_plugins capability. As a result, Administrators can not install plugins on a single site in a multisite network.


Difference #4. Other small changes

There are other small changes on a multisite network:


Summary

This is our best attempt at a complete overview of the differences in user capabilities between a single site and a network. If we missed anything, or you have questions, please post in the comments below.

The differences between a single WordPress site and a network are small, but they can be confusing, particularly when you're using the Administrator role.


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