The number of triangles in a graph is an important metric for understanding the graph.
It is also directly related to the clustering coefficient of a graph, which is one of the most important indicator for social networks.
Counting the number of triangles is computationally expensive for very large graphs. Hence, estimation is necessary for large graphs, particularly for graphs that are hidden behind searchable interfaces where the graphs in their entirety are not available.
For instance, user networks in Twitter and Facebook are not available for third parties to explore their properties directly.
This paper proposes a new method to estimate the number of triangles based on random edge sampling. It improves the traditional random edge sampling by probing the edges that have a higher probability of forming triangles. The method outperforms the traditional method consistently, and can be better by orders of magnitude when the graph is very large. The result is demonstrated on 20 graphs, including the largest graphs we can find. More importantly, we proved the improvement ratio, and verified our result on all the datasets. The analytical results are achieved by simplifying the variances of the estimators based on the assumption that the graph is very large. We believe that such big data assumption can lead to interesting results not only in triangle estimation, but also in other sampling problems.
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