In this paper we present a novel approach to determine the exact diameter (longest shortest path length) of large graphs, in particular of the nowadays frequently studied small world networks. Typical examples include social networks, gene networks, web graphs and internet topology networks. Due to complexity issues, the diameter is often calculated based on a sample of only a fraction of the nodes in the graph, or some approximation algorithm is applied. We instead propose an exact algorithm that uses various lower and upper bounds as well as effective node selection and pruning strategies in order to evaluate only the critical nodes which ultimately determine the diameter. We will show that our algorithm is able to quickly determine the exact diameter of various large datasets of small world networks with millions of nodes and hundreds of millions of links, whereas before only approximations could be given. © 2011 ACM.
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