Range-limited centrality measures in complex networks

Mária Ercsey-Ravasz, Ryan N. Lichtenwalter, Nitesh V. Chawla and Zoltán Toroczkai
Physical Review E 85.6 (2012): 066103.
Publication Date: 
June, 2012

Here we present a range-limited approach to centrality measures in both nonweighted and weighted directed complex networks. We introduce an efficient method that generates for every node and every edge its betweenness centrality based on shortest paths of lengths not longer than ℓ=1,...,L in the case of nonweighted networks, and for weighted networks the corresponding quantities based on minimum weight paths with path weights not larger than wℓ=ℓΔ, ℓ=1,2...,L=R/Δ. These measures provide a systematic description on the positioning importance of a node (edge) with respect to its network neighborhoods one step out, two steps out, etc., up to and including the whole network. They are more informative than traditional centrality measures, as network transport typically happens on all length scales, from transport to nearest neighbors to the farthest reaches of the network. We show that range-limited centralities obey universal scaling laws for large nonweighted networks. As the computation of traditional centrality measures is costly, this scaling behavior can be exploited to efficiently estimate centralities of nodes and edges for all ranges, including the traditional ones. The scaling behavior can also be exploited to show that the ranking top list of nodes (edges) based on their range-limited centralities quickly freezes as a function of the range, and hence the diameter-range top list can be efficiently predicted. We also show how to estimate the typical largest node-to-node distance for a network of N nodes, exploiting the afore-mentioned scaling behavior. These observations were made on model networks and on a large social network inferred from cell-phone trace logs (∼5.5×106 nodes and ∼2.7×107 edges). Finally, we apply these concepts to efficiently detect the vulnerability backbone of a network (defined as the smallest percolating cluster of the highest betweenness nodes and edges) and illustrate the importance of weight-based centrality measures in weighted networks in detecting such backbones.