The diameter of an undirected, unweighted graph can be found in $O(n^3)$ with e.g. the Floyd–Warshall algorithm. However, there is an idea how to improve the runtime:

  1. Pick a vertex $v$
  2. Find $u$ such that $d(v,u)$ is maximum
  3. Find $w$ such that $d(u,w)$ is maximum
  4. Return $d(u,w)$

This idea fails; for instance, when starting at $v$ here:

enter image description here

However, it is not immediately clear to me if we can not amend the above algorithm with another indirection, and also consider all nodes with maximum distance instead of only one. That is:

  1. Pick a vertex $v$
  2. Find the set $U$ such that $u \in U \implies d(v,u)$ is maximum
  3. For each node $u$ in $U$, find the set $W_u$ such that $w \in W \implies d(u,w)$ is maximum
  4. Merge these sets $W_u$ into a new set $W$
  5. Calculate the eccentricity of all nodes in $W$
  6. Return the maximum eccentricity found this way

The improved algorithm works for the above counterexample as well as others (e.g. this one).

I assume it is still wrong. If it were not, it would offer a significant improvement for at least some kinds of graphs. Is there a counterexample? And how could a counterexample for further additional indirections be constructed?


1 Answer 1


The diameter of the following graph is $2a+4$. If you start from $v$, you will need $i=2a+1$ iterations to have $s,t\in W_{i}$. It provides a family of counter-examples for an arbitrary large number of indirections (as $a \to \infty$).


  • $\begingroup$ Nice example! If I am not mistaken, the second set should contain not only v but also the two nodes below v, because they, too, have maximum distance from x and y, respectively. In a following indirection, the nodes besides x and y would then also be included, so the set grows and the algorithm would eventually discover s and t. However, that would take several steps, more than I proposed. $\endgroup$
    – mafu
    Dec 5, 2017 at 18:39
  • $\begingroup$ I made a mistake - actually, in the example given, s and t would be discovered, as their distance to the nodes below v is 5, too. That can be fixed by making the sides a bit longer, so your idea still applies. $\endgroup$
    – mafu
    Dec 5, 2017 at 18:44
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @mafu: Hmmm yes, nice catch, I updated the picture. There might be off-by-one errors, but I think you got the idea. $\endgroup$
    – md5
    Dec 5, 2017 at 19:32

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