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When you edit a Wordpress Multisite, there is this section of Attributes with multicheckboxes to select from, just curious what this actually does (if anything). I never needed to check "Public" checkbox in here for the site to be shown publicly. This is very strange to me and just wondering how Wordpress uses this and if it's used at all and how?

multisite-edit-settings

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The "Deleted", "Spam" and "Archived" attributes

If you checked "Deleted", "Spam" or "Archived", the site would no longer be accessible to the public and all users except super admins, and the only thing non super admins would see is a notice saying:

  • "This site is no longer available." if the "Deleted" attribute is checked.

  • "This site has been archived or suspended." if the "Spam" or "Archived" attribute is checked.

And if for example you're an administrator on those sites, then you would not see the sites marked as deleted, spam or archived on the Dashboard → My Sites page. I.e. Only super admins would see them.

The "Mature" attribute

Unlike the above three attributes, the site would continue to display normally to the public even if the "Mature" attribute is checked, so I'm guessing the attribute is merely a flag indicating that the site is intended for mature audiences only — excerpt from get_blog_details() on WordPress Codex:

mature
(integer) Flag indicating if this blog has been marked as for a mature audience.

Moreover, the inline doc for the $mature property in the WP_Site class actually says (see the longer description text):

/**
 * Whether the site should be treated as mature.
 *
 * Handling for this does not exist throughout WordPress core, but custom
 * implementations exist that require the property to be present.
 *
 * ...
 */
public $mature = '0';

And you might find this article on WordPress.com helpful which shows an example of the above custom implementation?

The "Public" attribute

I never needed to check "Public" checkbox in here for the site to be shown publicly.

Yes, because the purpose of that attribute is actually the same as the "Search engine visibility" option in the Reading Settings — more specifically, the "Discourage search engines from indexing this site" checkbox.

I.e. If the "Public" attribute is not checked, or if the above checkbox is checked, then the noindex meta tag will be added to the document head:

<meta name='robots' content='noindex,nofollow' />

And it's added via noindex() which says:

If a blog is marked as not being public then the noindex meta tag will be output to tell web robots not to index the page content.

Therefore, "public" actually means "allow search engines to index this site", whereas "not public" means the exact opposite — "disallow/discourage search engines from indexing this site". But of course, as WordPress core says, "It is up to search engines to honor this request." :)

Additional Notes

  • If you checked the other attributes than "Public", the site's row in the sites list table on the Sites → All Sites admin page will be highlighted in red/pinkish like so:

    wp-admin → Sites → All Sites

    Note: The fifth site (site4) had the "Public" attribute NOT checked.

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  • Thanks, so if I have public checked, but in the site specific General -> Reading have Do not allow search engines to index this site, which one is honored? What exactly happens in cases like that? Just curious. And thank you for the detailed explanation of this. I was thinking that mature meant that the content on the site is finished or something like it's a mature adult in the sense that it's content is fully developed (wasn't thinking that it was for mature audiences). Feb 22, 2021 at 2:02
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    As long as the site is not "public", i.e. the site-specific option in the Reading Settings is checked, or that the "Public" attribute is not checked, the noindex meta tag will be added by default. :) And sorry for the typos in my original answer, but I've already corrected them plus added some extra details.
    – Sally CJ
    Feb 22, 2021 at 5:27
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    Thanks again for all of the details in your answer here! I'm sure others will find it very useful as well! Feb 22, 2021 at 5:31
  • Hello! Is there a way to add a custom attribute? I need this. please help! I will highly appreciate it Jan 29 at 5:51

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