Network Explorer: Design, Implementation, and Real World Deployment of a Large Network Visualization Tool

John A. Guerra Gómez, Aaron Wilson, Juan Liu, Dan Davies, Peter Jarvis and Eric Bier
Palo Alto Research Center


Large networks visualization

Plenty of work has been done on the field

Our objectives

  • Apply state of the art of netViz
  • Report what worked (and didn't) in our industry setting
  • We open sourced some of our components for the community to reuse

Some netviz tools

  • NetworkX
  • Gephi
  • Cytoscape
  • Pajek
  • NetworkX
  • Many others

Why develop another tool?

  • Integration
  • Web-based
  • Scalability
  • Industry

Best practices

Customer's needs

  • Get an overview of the network
  • Explore nodes of interest's ego-networks on demand

Best practice #1: offer overviews and ego-network modes

Overview mode

Too much information

Rank-by-relevance framework

Best practice #2 filter and display the most important nodes

Rank-by-relevance framework 2

Best practice #3 include neighborhoods in the selection



Best practice #4 Cluster and separate groups

Jump into clusters

Jump into clusters

Jump into clusters

Jump into clusters

Best practice #5 Allow users to filter by cluster

Node navigator

Best practice #6 Inform users of what they are seeing


Ego-network view

Ego-distance mode

Best practice #7 Allow node expansion on demand

Node pining

Best practice #8 Allow custom layouts


Fraud, waste and abuse

Police chat networks

Drug latent communities


  • Best practices
  • Node Navigator
  • Open Sourced force-in-a-box layout
  • Open Sourced in-browser clustering
  • Rank-by-relevance framework

Thank You


John Alexis Guerra Gómez