Graph visualization on the web with Gephi and Seadragon

The project takes another big step forward and bring dynamic graph exploration on the web in one click from Gephi with the Seadragon Web Export plugin.

Mathieu Bastian and Julian Bilcke worked on a Seadragon export plugin. Directly export large graph pictures and put it on the web. Seadragon is pure Javascript and works on all modern browsers. As it uses images tiles (like Google Maps), there is no graph size limit.

Go to your Gephi installation and then to the Plugin Center (Tools > Plugin) to install the plugin. You can also download manually the plugin archive or get the source code.


Sample with Diseasome Network dataset directly exported from Gephi

Communication about (large) graphs is currently limited because it’s not easy to put them on the web. Graph visualization has very much same aims as other types of visualization and need powerful web support. It’s a long time we are thinking about the best way to do this and found that there is no perfect solution. We need in the same time efficiency, interactivity and portability. The simpleness of making and hacking the system is also important, as we want developers to be able to improve it easily.

By comparing technologies we found that Seadragon is the best short-term solution, with minimum efforts and maximum results. It has however still a serious limitation: interactivity. No search and no click on nodes are possible for the moment. But as it is JS, I don’t see hurdles to add these features in the future, help needed.

The table below see our conclusions on technologies we are considering. We are very much eager to discuss it on the forum. As performance is the most important demand, WebGL is a serious candidate but development would require time and resources. We plan to start a WebGL visualization engine prototype next summer, for Google Summer of Code 2011, but we would like to discuss specifications with anyone interested and make this together.

Portability Efficiency Effort Interactivity
Canvas (Processing.js/RaphaelJS)
Figure: Comparing technologies able to display networks on the web.

How to use the plugin?

Install the plugin from Gephi, “Tools > Plugin” and find Seadragon Web Export. After restarting Gephi, the plugin is installed in the export menu. Load a sample network and try the plugin. Go to the Preview tab to configure the rendering settings like colors, labels and edges.

Export directly from Gephi Export menu

The settings asks for a valid directory where to export the files and the size of the canvas. Bigger is the canvas, more you can zoom in, but it takes longer time to generate and to load.

Export settings, configure the size of the image

Note that result on the local hard-drive can’t be viewed with Chrome, due to a bug. Run Chrome with “–allow-file-access-from-files” option to make it work.

Kudos to Microsoft Live Labs for this great library, released in Ms-PL open source license. Thank you to Franck Cuny for the CPAN Explorer project that inspired this plugin. Other interesting projects are GEXF Explorer, a Flash-based dynamic widget and gexf4js, load GEXF files into Protovis.