Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Computer and Information Science

First Advisor

Michael Kearns

Second Advisor

Sanjeev Khanna


Over the last decade we have witnessed the rapid proliferation of large-scale complex networks, spanning many social, information and technological domains. While many of the tasks which users of such networks face are essentially global and involve the network as a whole, the size of these networks is huge and the information available to users is only local. In this dissertation we show that even when faced with stringent locality constraints, one can still effectively solve prominent algorithmic problems on such networks.

In the first part of the dissertation we present a natural algorithmic framework designed to model the behaviour of an external agent trying to solve a network optimization problem with limited access to the network data. Our study focuses on local information algorithms --- sequential algorithms where the network topology is initially unknown and is revealed only within a local neighborhood of vertices that have been irrevocably added to the output set. We address both network coverage problems as well as network search problems.

Our results include local information algorithms for coverage problems whose performance closely match the best possible even when information about network structure is unrestricted. We also demonstrate a sharp threshold on the level of visibility required: at a certain visibility level it is possible to design algorithms that nearly match the best approximation possible even with full access to the network structure, but with any less information it is impossible to achieve a reasonable approximation.

For preferential attachment networks, we obtain polylogarithmic approximations to the problem of finding the smallest subgraph that connects a subset of nodes and the problem of finding the highest-degree nodes. This is achieved by addressing a decade-old open question of Bollobás and Riordan on locally finding the root in a preferential attachment process.

In the second part of the dissertation we focus on designing highly time efficient local algorithms for central mining problems on complex networks that have been in the focus of the research community over a decade: finding a small set of influential nodes in the network, and fast ranking of nodes. Among our results is an essentially runtime-optimal local algorithm for the influence maximization problem in the standard independent cascades model of information diffusion and an essentially runtime-optimal local algorithm for the problem of returning all nodes with PageRank bigger than a given threshold.

Our work demonstrates that locality is powerful enough to allow efficient solutions to many central algorithmic problems on complex networks.