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When you write a plugin for WordPress Multisite, you have three options for how to let users control the plugin options. It comes down to the manipulation of the ways we have to activate a plugin on Multisite, which are per-site or network only.
I’m a firm adherent of having the network control as much as it logically should, but allowing each site to pick unique features. Never should someone be shocked to find out they’re on a network. A network is, after all, a collection of WordPress sites. Now your collection may or may not be related, but at the end of the day, someone should never be surprised to find out the site they signed up for is on a network.
With this in mind, I separated the ‘control’ of the plugins into three groups.
Network Only Network Only
A Network Only plugin is one that should be controlled via the Network Admin. While the Settings API is a terrible bag of wet hair for Multisite, if you have a network plugin, then it should be for the network. The plugins that have no interface at all should be network activated. This is really simple, but in general if you’re adding this feature to your network, you probably want it on for everyone. There are some rare exceptions, but in general, network only is the key.
Most network only plugins are clever enough to use
Network: true in their plugin headers, which makes this much easier. If you think your code should only be activated by the network, use that.
A per-site plugin is activated on each site, controlled from each site, and the network admins have no authority save uninstalling the plugin. These plugins are things that each site should decide how to use. When I look at my own sites, I have a few that are like this. Like @Reply Two – when you look at it, you’d think it should be network only, but since it requires some per-site configuration with regards to comments, it’s best left as optional for each site.
There is no
Network: false setting, I’m afraid.
Network Only Activation with Per-Site Control Network Only Activation with Per-Site Control
Here’s where it gets sticky, and plugins like Jetpack actually handle this better than most others. Take, for example, something like a plugin that adds features to a specific theme. If that theme isn’t active, the plugin shouldn’t error out. But a lot of us code our plugins to say “If this other plugin or theme isn’t active, don’t activate.” That sounds like a great idea except when you want to have it network activated. In those cases, the checks get weird and don’t run as expected.
And then you have to consider what should control what. I mentioned Jetpack because it has a network admin screen.
There you can enforce connections from your network admin, or not, as you see fit.
Which One Is Right? Which One Is Right?
While I’ve postulated this is very simple, it’s not. For example, when you have Jetpack, do I want everyone to edit every setting or just some? I’d want them to have the ability to use the CSS editor per-site, but maybe not VaultPress or Stats. The checks for that code is not as logical as it should be. The whens for running those checks, the priorities and weight given to who is more important, is not obvious.
I would say that the Network Admins should have final say. But many people don’t agree with me on that. Many people think each site on a network would be best to exist on it’s own and stand alone, a part of a secret.
And that too deserves room for thought.