SimRank*: effective and scalable pairwise similarity search based on graph topology

Weiren Yu, Xuemin Lin, Wenjie Zhang, Jian Pei, Julie A. Mccann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Given a graph, how can we quantify similarity between two nodes in an effective and scalable way? SimRank is an attractive measure of pairwise similarity based on graph topologies. Its underpinning philosophy that “two nodes are similar if they are pointed to (have incoming edges) from similar nodes” can be regarded as an aggregation of similarities based on incoming paths. Despite its popularity in various applications (e.g., web search and social networks), SimRank has an undesirable trait, i.e., “zero-similarity”: it accommodates only the paths of equal length from a common “center” node, whereas a large portion of other paths are fully ignored. In this paper, we propose an effective and scalable similarity model, SimRank*, to remedy this problem. (1) We first provide a sufficient and necessary condition of the “zero-similarity” problem that exists in Jeh and Widom’s SimRank model, Li et al. ’s SimRank model, Random Walk with Restart (RWR), and ASCOS++. (2) We next present our treatment, SimRank*, which can resolve this issue while inheriting the merit of the simple SimRank philosophy. (3) We reduce the series form of SimRank* to a closed form, which looks simpler than SimRank but which enriches semantics without suffering from increased computational overhead. This leads to an iterative form of SimRank*, which requires O(Knm) time and O(n2) memory for computing all (n2) pairs of similarities on a graph of n nodes and m edges for K iterations. (4) To improve the computational time of SimRank* further, we leverage a novel clustering strategy via edge concentration. Due to its NP-hardness, we devise an efficient heuristic to speed up all-pairs SimRank* computation to O(Knm~) time, where m~ is generally much smaller than m. (5) To scale SimRank* on billion-edge graphs, we propose two memory-efficient single-source algorithms, i.e., ss-gSR* for geometric SimRank*, and ss-eSR* for exponential SimRank*, which can retrieve similarities between all n nodes and a given query on an as-needed basis. This significantly reduces the O(n2) memory of all-pairs search to either O(Kn+m~) for geometric SimRank*, or O(n+m~) for exponential SimRank*, without any loss of accuracy, where m~≪n2 . (6) We also compare SimRank* with another remedy of SimRank that adds self-loops on each node and demonstrate that SimRank* is more effective. (7) Using real and synthetic datasets, we empirically verify the richer semantics of SimRank*, and validate its high computational efficiency and scalability on large graphs with billions of edges.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)401-426
Number of pages26
JournalVLDB Journal
Issue number3
Early online date11 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2019

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) 2019. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.


  • Graph topology
  • Link analysis
  • SimRank measure
  • Similarity search


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