WebShapes: Network Visualization with 3D Shapes

Published in WSDM , 2020

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Network visualization has played a critical role in graph analysis, as it not only presents a big picture of a network but also helps reveal the structural information of a network. The most popular visual representation of networks is the node-link diagram. However, visualizing a large network with the node-link diagram can be challenging due to the difficulty in obtaining an optimal graph layout. To address this challenge, a recent advancement in network representation: network shape, allows one to compactly represent a network and its subgraphs with the distribution of their embeddings. Inspired by this research, we have designed a web platform WebShapes that enables researchers and practitioners to visualize their network data as customized 3D shapes (http://b.link/webshapes). Furthermore, we provide a case study on real-world networks to explore the sensitivity of network shapes to different graph sampling, embedding, and fitting methods, and we show examples of understanding networks through their network shapes.