Efficiently Computing Maximum Flows in Scale-Free Networks

Authors Thomas Bläsius, Tobias Friedrich, Christopher Weyand

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Thomas Bläsius
  • Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany
Tobias Friedrich
  • Hasso Plattner Institute, Universität Potsdam, Germany
Christopher Weyand
  • Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany

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Thomas Bläsius, Tobias Friedrich, and Christopher Weyand. Efficiently Computing Maximum Flows in Scale-Free Networks. In 29th Annual European Symposium on Algorithms (ESA 2021). Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs), Volume 204, pp. 21:1-21:14, Schloss Dagstuhl – Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2021)


We study the maximum-flow/minimum-cut problem on scale-free networks, i.e., graphs whose degree distribution follows a power-law. We propose a simple algorithm that capitalizes on the fact that often only a small fraction of such a network is relevant for the flow. At its core, our algorithm augments Dinitz’s algorithm with a balanced bidirectional search. Our experiments on a scale-free random network model indicate sublinear run time. On scale-free real-world networks, we outperform the commonly used highest-label Push-Relabel implementation by up to two orders of magnitude. Compared to Dinitz’s original algorithm, our modifications reduce the search space, e.g., by a factor of 275 on an autonomous systems graph. Beyond these good run times, our algorithm has an additional advantage compared to Push-Relabel. The latter computes a preflow, which makes the extraction of a minimum cut potentially more difficult. This is relevant, for example, for the computation of Gomory-Hu trees. On a social network with 70000 nodes, our algorithm computes the Gomory-Hu tree in 3 seconds compared to 12 minutes when using Push-Relabel.

Subject Classification

ACM Subject Classification
  • Theory of computation → Network flows
  • graphs
  • flow
  • network
  • scale-free


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