I view a network as a collection integrated sites. I've viewed multi site as just a way to provide Users (by my control or their control) the ability to have a blog on my space. I realize plugins have bridged the gap, but what worries me is it isn't inherent. To set up and continue a true network, I have to rely on all these plugins to be maintained.
My needs would be:
1. Integrated users
2. Integrated content
3. Integrated method to group users for the purpose of controlling the content
4. Integrated method to charge for access to certain parts of each site
I realize plugins are out there that should do all of that, but I have to have them continue to work as WP goes forward. I'm not suggesting it's a flaw with WP, just an obstacle for my needs, but I would think #1 and #2 would be obvious.
A 5th area would be great to have integrated media, especially NextGen. :)
The idea of BuddyPress is appealing, but I can't seem to get it to work nicely with my theme (StudioPress), and I've tried a theme conversion plugin or something along those lines.
The times I've set up multisite--a couple of test sites--it's always created wp_1_ tables for my main blog/site, then used those from that point forward. I cross checked my ID's, and all that I checked use the tables with those prefixes, so I deleted what would be the duplicate tables.
In my conversion, I can now get to the back end of my site, which is to say I did accidentally delete the Users table. The front end is not working. I have yet to touch the .htaccess file, beyond backing it up, nor have I touched the plugins yet.
I appreciate input from both of you, including any future attempts to enlighten me.