A Short History of WordPress MultiUser (WPMU)

Written by James
27
Jun

This is a short tale about how one developer’s inspiration has led to a revolution in online publishing.

On October 4th 2004 Donncha O Caoimh released WPMU 0.1 aka WordPress MultiUser aka WordPressµ.

Come late ‘04 and early ‘05 there were a lot of us playing around with WPMU and when WordPress 1.5 came about, WPMU was none too far behind.

So… we played around with smarty templates, and generally enjoyed the fun of it all until Donncha started aiming for an “option so that Smarty and WP themes can be mixed on the one host!”

And WPMU as we know it was born.

The forums were relaunched, WPMUDEV.ORG provided (and still provides) the extra goodies, a certain individual known as Matt came aboard, Blogsome (perhaps the first major WPMU host) took off.

Before long there were all sorts of sites sprouting up, from Edublogs (that’s me BTW :) to Pontolistpress, The Jackass Journal, ILDNPlanet.net and others.

And, of course, there was that little known site, WordPress.com.

So what has WPMU done for you? What has it done for the web?

Well, besides being the stand out of multi-user blogging platforms, as far back as 2005, it’s a brilliant example of how open source software can work alongside commercial organisations.

When Automattic kicked off with the .com many a naysayer would have predicted the demise of WordPress, but in fact it’s gone from strength to strength. Aligning an open source platform with a commercial entity has meant a boon for them (vast community input) and an amazing amount of direction and support for the rest of us.

Without Automattic , I have no doubt that WPMU would not be what it is today.

And where are we at today? Well, that’s quite something.

Not only are there over a million blogs at WordPress.com but there are far far more at a whole heap of other blog hosting sites, not to mention Universities like Harvard and newspapers like Le Monde. Heck, I even got a job pitching about how The Age could use WPMU – not that they did, but that’s another story.

WPMU has given people with a server, a half decent grasp of php and a lot of enthusiasm the opportunity to start real communities – communities where every member has their own space and where the beauty of WordPress has been made available to writers, vodcasters and podcasters the world over who don’t want to worry about how to set up an sql database.

WPMU has transformed the blogging world, hang in here for the rest of the trip and you just might see it transform the web itself.

Update: Donncha delves deeper than I managed to, pointing out the role http://blogs.linux.ie/ played in it all:

“Making logs available to the members of the Irish Linux Users Group at linux.ie was my primary motivation in the first place for getting tarted on all this. I based my original code on b2, the predecessor of WordPress, and called it b2++. There are a few posts on my blog if you want to go look…. once b2 became WP I adapted the code to work with the new project, and WPMU is the result!

  1. Wow, that is a history I can get excited about. And given my recent download of 67 themes for WPMu thanks to you -it comes at a time when I am already extremely excited about the power of this application. The WPMu community is, indeed, vast and dedicated, and here at the University of Mary Washington we have gotten so much from the this service that we’d like to thank the WPMu community more generally and edublogs in particular, you’re the service that just keeps on giving :)

  2. Exciting stuff.. I’ve had several clients come to me with WPMU level projects who’ve been unaware of its existence. After the idea of using WPMU has been presented they’ve been very excited about giving it a try.

    A Sports Newspaper in Chicago will be making the switch over to WPMU before long and that should bring plenty of experience with it ; ).

    Excellent post, you’ve got a new subscriber,

    -Jonathan

  3. WPMU allowed me to create Autiblogger, a free blogging service for the autistic community.

    I had tried using other open source solutions for over a year, but none of them was quite right. Finally WPMU 1.0 was released and I was able to get it working on my server (no luck with any of the earlier versions).

    Once again, I am thankful to the entire WordPress team, and in this case Donncha in particular.

  4. Actually I don’t remember b++ and had a bloody hard time trying to find out anything decent on b2 as a whole… if anyone can fill in the gaps that’d rock!

    http://blogli.co.il/ replaces ring of blogs – sorry, my Hebrew ‘aint that great and I’ve probably missed some important non-English sites.

  5. Great retrospective. I’m quite thankful to WPMU as it’s let me start The Terminal, a hub of information for the Birmingham, Alabama metropolitan area.

    I’m looking forward to the next developments from the site and from learning some more from others out there to make it as good as it can be.

  6. Elad – Blogli is not the only MU in hebrew – I myself built two systems for clients. Those sites are currently unactive, sadly.

    Thanks for all that helped make WPMU into the powerful beast it is today!

  7. Tzafrir, if you can point me to other Hebrew MU installations I would be happy to take a look and learn.

  8. Hmmm, I’ve been considering trying WPMU, but I’m not sure this post is so promising. Several of the links I clicked seemed to be dead sites, particularly the trio of “Pontolistpress, The Jackass Journal, ILDNPlanet.net” — these sites appear to be rarely updated in the last months.

    What gives?

  9. Hi James,

    I noticed that your link to “smarty templates” was to one of my pages from my incsub blog.

    http:/incsub.org/wpmu/plu/

    I thought it had died as I went in a few months and it had been hacked and all my posts had been deleted. If you click the above link you can see what I mean.

    I did not realise your archives went back that far – I just thought I had lost it.

    PS. Are you not adding fiends to your facebook account?

  10. Hi James,

    I noticed that your link to “smarty templates” was to one of my pages from my incsub blog.

    http:/incsub.org/wpmu/plu/

    I thought it had died as I went in a few months and it had been hacked and all my posts had been deleted. If you click the above link you can see what I mean.

    I did not realise your archives went back that far – I just thought I had lost it.

    PS. Are you not adding friends to your facebook account?

  11. Naw, I’m having akinda facebook reaction… although it looks like I might be giving the wrong impression!

  12. ManilaMike

    I noticed someone posted about about recent download of 70 something WP MU templates, can you provide the link please, my fresh install has like three ugly templates and that is it