Abstract Recently, permutation based indexes have attracted interest in the area of similarity search. The basic idea of permutation based indexes is that data objects are represented as appropriately generated permutations of a set of pivots (or reference objects). Similarity queries are executed by searching for data objects whose permutation representation is similar to that of the query, following the assumption that similar objects are represented by similar permutations of the pivots. In the context of permutation-based indexing, most authors propose to select pivots randomly from the data set, given that traditional pivot selection techniques do not reveal better performance. However, to the best of our knowledge, no rigorous comparison has been performed yet. In this paper we compare five pivot selection techniques on three permutation-based similarity access methods. Among those, we propose a novel technique specifically designed for permutations. Two significant observations emerge from our tests. First, random selection is always outperformed by at least one of the tested techniques. Second, there is no technique that is universally the best for all permutation-based access methods; rather different techniques are optimal for different methods. This indicates that the pivot selection technique should be considered as an integrating and relevant part of any permutation-based access method.
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