Cover time and mixing time of random walks on dynamic graphs

Chen Avin, Michal Koucký, Zvi Lotker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


The application of simple random walks on graphs is a powerful tool that is useful in many algorithmic settings such as network exploration, sampling, information spreading, and distributed computing. This is due to the reliance of a simple random walk on only local data, its negligible memory requirements, and its distributed nature. It is well known that for static graphs the cover time, that is, the expected time to visit every node of the graph, and the mixing time, that is, the time to sample a node according to the stationary distribution, are at most polynomial relative to the size of the graph. Motivated by real world networks, such as peer-to-peer and wireless networks, the conference version of this paper was the first to study random walks on arbitrary dynamic networks. We study the most general model in which an oblivious adversary is permitted to change the graph after every step of the random walk. In contrast to static graphs, and somewhat counter-intuitively, we show that there are adversary strategies that force the expected cover time and the mixing time of the simple random walk on dynamic graphs to be exponentially long, even when at each time step the network is well connected and rapidly mixing. To resolve this, we propose a simple strategy, the lazy random walk, which guarantees, under minor conditions, polynomial cover time and polynomial mixing time regardless of the changes made by the adversary.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)576-596
Number of pages21
JournalRandom Structures and Algorithms
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2018


  • cover time
  • dynamic graphs
  • mixing time
  • random walks
  • stationary distribution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • General Mathematics
  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design
  • Applied Mathematics


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