WordPress MultiSite Capabilities Are Different From Single Sites

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 Administrator role will have a limited set of capabilities, even on single sites. More than a dozen important capabilities do not apply to the Administrator role 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.

  • Steve Burge

    Steve is the founder of PublishPress. He's been working with open source software for over 20 years. Originally from the UK, he now lives in Sarasota in the USA. This profile is generated by the PublishPress Authors plugin.

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