O(log log n) Passes is Optimal for Semi-Streaming Maximal Independent Set

STOC 2024Proceedings of the 56th Annual ACM Symposium on Theory of Computing


In the semi-streaming model for processing massive graphs, an algorithm makes multiple passes over the edges of a given $n$-vertex graph and is tasked with computing the solution to a problem using $O(n \cdot \text{polylog} ~ n)$ space. Semi-streaming algorithms for Maximal Independent Set (MIS) that run in $O(\log\log{n})$ passes have been known for almost a decade, however, the best lower bounds can only rule out single-pass algorithms. We close this large gap by proving that the current algorithms are optimal: Any semi-streaming algorithm for finding an MIS with constant probability of success requires $\Omega(\log\log{n})$ passes. This settles the complexity of this fundamental problem in the semi-streaming model, and constitutes one of the first optimal multi-pass lower bounds in this model.

We establish our result by proving an optimal round vs communication tradeoff for the (multi-party) communication complexity of MIS. The key ingredient of this result is a new technique, called hierarchical embedding, for performing round elimination: we show how to pack many but small hard $(r-1)$-round instances of the problem into a single $r$-round instance, in a way that enforces any $r$-round protocol to effectively solve all these $(r-1)$-round instances also. These embeddings are obtained via a novel application of results from extremal graph theory—in particular dense graphs with many disjoint unique shortest paths—together with a newly designed graph product, and are analyzed via information-theoretic tools such as direct-sum and message compression arguments.

Pre-print | arXiv