Improved Approximation Algorithms and Lower Bounds for Search-Diversification Problems

Authors Amir Abboud, Vincent Cohen-Addad, Euiwoong Lee, Pasin Manurangsi

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Author Details

Amir Abboud
  • Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel
Vincent Cohen-Addad
  • Google Research, Zürich, Switzerland
Euiwoong Lee
  • University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA
Pasin Manurangsi
  • Google Research, Mountain View, CA, USA


We are grateful to Karthik C.S. for insightful discussions, and to Badih Ghazi for encouraging us to work on the problems.

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Amir Abboud, Vincent Cohen-Addad, Euiwoong Lee, and Pasin Manurangsi. Improved Approximation Algorithms and Lower Bounds for Search-Diversification Problems. In 49th International Colloquium on Automata, Languages, and Programming (ICALP 2022). Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs), Volume 229, pp. 7:1-7:18, Schloss Dagstuhl – Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2022)


We study several questions related to diversifying search results. We give improved approximation algorithms in each of the following problems, together with some lower bounds. 1) We give a polynomial-time approximation scheme (PTAS) for a diversified search ranking problem [Nikhil Bansal et al., 2010] whose objective is to minimizes the discounted cumulative gain. Our PTAS runs in time n^{2^O(log(1/ε)/ε)} ⋅ m^O(1) where n denotes the number of elements in the databases and m denotes the number of constraints. Complementing this result, we show that no PTAS can run in time f(ε) ⋅ (nm)^{2^o(1/ε)} assuming Gap-ETH and therefore our running time is nearly tight. Both our upper and lower bounds answer open questions from [Nikhil Bansal et al., 2010]. 2) We next consider the Max-Sum Dispersion problem, whose objective is to select k out of n elements from a database that maximizes the dispersion, which is defined as the sum of the pairwise distances under a given metric. We give a quasipolynomial-time approximation scheme (QPTAS) for the problem which runs in time n^{O_ε(log n)}. This improves upon previously known polynomial-time algorithms with approximate ratios 0.5 [Refael Hassin et al., 1997; Allan Borodin et al., 2017]. Furthermore, we observe that reductions from previous work rule out approximation schemes that run in n^õ_ε(log n) time assuming ETH. 3) Finally, we consider a generalization of Max-Sum Dispersion called Max-Sum Diversification. In addition to the sum of pairwise distance, the objective also includes another function f. For monotone submodular function f, we give a quasipolynomial-time algorithm with approximation ratio arbitrarily close to (1-1/e). This improves upon the best polynomial-time algorithm which has approximation ratio 0.5 [Allan Borodin et al., 2017]. Furthermore, the (1-1/e) factor is also tight as achieving better-than-(1-1/e) approximation is NP-hard [Uriel Feige, 1998].

Subject Classification

ACM Subject Classification
  • Theory of computation → Approximation algorithms analysis
  • Approximation Algorithms
  • Complexity
  • Data Mining
  • Diversification


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