Graph-based recommendation systems: State-of-the-art techniques

As we continue to witness the explosion of data in recent years, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find meaningful recommendations for users. Think of the countless times you have been bombarded with ads, irrelevant suggestions, or pointless recommendations that you have no interest in. Frustrating, isn't it?

Enter graph-based recommendation systems! Graphs have long been used in data representation, network analysis, and machine learning. Graph-based recommendation systems leverage the power of graphs to provide more accurate, relevant, and personalized recommendations for users.

In this article, we will dive deep into state-of-the-art techniques used in graph-based recommendation systems. But before that, let's take a brief look at what recommendation systems are, and why they are essential.

What are recommendation systems?

Recommendation systems are a subclass of information filtering systems that aim to predict user preferences or interests based on their past behavior or other data. This information can be obtained from different sources like transactional data, search queries, browsing history, social media activity, and more.

Recommendation systems are widely used in e-commerce, social media, content streaming, and other applications where offering personalized recommendations can lead to increased engagement, retention, and revenue.

There are three main types of recommendation systems:

Graph-based recommendation systems belong to the hybrid type, as they combine graph theory and collaborative filtering to generate recommendations.

Graph-based recommendation systems

Graph-based recommendation systems use graph theory to model relationships between users and items. Graphs are an excellent way to represent complex relationships and dependencies between different entities, making them an ideal tool for recommendation systems.

In a graph-based recommendation system, users and items are represented as nodes, and the connections between them as edges. The edges can have different types and weights, representing different relationships between entities.

For example, in a movie recommendation system, users can be nodes, and movies can be nodes. The edges can represent different relationships, like "viewed," "rated," "liked," "disliked," "recommended," and more.

Using graph theory, graph-based recommendation systems can model user-item interactions more accurately and efficiently than traditional recommendation systems.

Why use graph-based recommendation systems?

Graph-based recommendation systems offer several advantages over traditional recommendation systems:

  1. Better modeling of user-item interactions: Graphs can model complex relationships between users and items more accurately than other models. This is especially important for applications where users' preferences change frequently or where there is a lot of noise in the data.

  2. Scalability and efficiency: Graph-based recommendation systems can handle large datasets more efficiently than other models. This is because graphs can be optimized for fast traversal and calculation of recommendations.

  3. Personalization: Graph-based recommendation systems can provide highly personalized recommendations based on the unique relationships between users and items.

  4. Novelty and serendipity: Graph-based recommendation systems can suggest novel and surprising recommendations that users might not have discovered on their own.

  5. Explainability: Graph-based recommendation systems can provide explanations for why certain recommendations are made, providing better transparency and trust for users.

Types of graph-based recommendation systems

There are different types of graph-based recommendation systems, each with its strengths and limitations. In this section, we will discuss some of the most popular ones.

User-item bipartite graph

One of the most simple and popular graph-based recommendation systems is based on a user-item bipartite graph. This graph has two types of nodes: users and items. There is an edge between a user node and an item node if the user has interacted with the item.

The goal of this system is to predict whether a user will interact with a new item or not. To do this, the graph is transformed into a user-user graph or an item-item graph using collaborative filtering techniques.

In a user-user graph, edges of different types can be added to represent the strength and type of relationship between users. For example, edges could represent shared liking of items, the same purchase history, or similar behavior.

An item-item graph, on the other hand, has edges between similar items. This can be useful for suggesting substitute items that users might like based on those they have already interacted with.

Social recommendation system

A social recommendation system considers the social relationship between users and leverages social network analysis techniques. In such a system, the user-item interactions are not the only thing taken into account. The graph also considers the social connections between users, like friend relationships, followership, or user groups.

This method can help to address the cold-start problem, where new users have no interaction data with the system. The system can recommend items based on the behavior of their social connections, leading to greater levels of user engagement.

Knowledge graph-based recommendation systems

Knowledge graph-based recommendation systems use explicitly-defined relationships between entities to make recommendations. A knowledge graph includes not just relationships between entities but also their attributes, types, and constraints. Knowledge graphs are often used in recommendation systems where the objects to be recommended are rich in attributes or have explicit relationships with other objects.

In a movie recommendation system, for example, a knowledge graph would include not just the movies and users but also other entities like actors, directors, genres, and movie studios. By considering the user's preferences for those entities, the system can generate highly personalized recommendations.

Hybrid graph-based recommendation systems

Hybrid graph-based recommendation systems combine multiple approaches to generate recommendations. A popular hybrid graph-based recommendation system is the factorization-based recommendation system.

Factorization-based recommendation systems use matrix factorization techniques to model user-item interactions. It transforms the user-item bipartite graph into a matrix, where each entry represents the weight of the interaction between that user and that item. Matrix factorization techniques are used to partition the matrix into lower-dimensional matrices that contain latent variables that capture the hidden signals of user preferences.

Combination with graph-based recommendation systems can help overcome the limitations of matrix factorization, like the cold-start problem or the inability to capture complex user-item relationships.

State-of-the-art techniques in graph-based recommendation systems

Graph-based recommendation systems have been around for some time now, and several techniques have been developed that take advantage of the power of graphs to improve recommendation quality. Some of these techniques include:

Graph Convolutional Networks (GCN)

Graph convolutional networks (GCNs) are a type of neural network that operates on graphs. GCNs can learn to propagate information between nodes and take into account both the local and global structure of the graph.

In graph-based recommendation systems, GCNs can be used to incorporate side information, like item content or user attributes, into the graph. By doing so, the GCNs can learn to make better recommendations that take into account the user-item preferences as well as the context surrounding the recommendation.

Random Walk with Restart (RWR)

Random walk with restart (RWR) is a network analysis technique that simulates a random walk on the graph, starting from a given node, and with a probability of being reset at each step. RWR has been used in recommendation systems to simulate the behavior of users and to generate personalized recommendations based on that behavior.

RWR can be combined with other techniques, like matrix factorization or GCNs, to generate recommendations that reflect the user's preferences while taking into account the context surrounding the recommendation.

Graph Attention Networks (GAT)

Graph attention networks (GATs) extend GCNs by considering the local structure of the graph surrounding each node. GATs use learned attention mechanisms to weight the relationships between nodes, effectively modeling the importance of each edge based on the context surrounding the recommendation.

In graph-based recommendation systems, GATs can improve the quality of recommendations by taking into account the different relationships between users and items and giving more importance to the relevant ones.

Graph Autoencoder (GAE)

Graph Autoencoders (GAEs) compress the information contained in the graph into a lower-dimensional representation that captures the underlying structure of the graph. GAEs can improve the quality of recommendations by capturing the relationships between users and items and preserving the interactions that are most relevant for generating recommendations.

GAEs can also be used to generate high-quality embeddings for user and items that can be used as input to other models, like GATs or GCNs.


Graph-based recommendation systems are a powerful way to generate more personalized and accurate recommendations for users. They allow us to model complex relationships between users and items, and generate recommendations that take into account the context surrounding the recommendation.

In this article, we discussed different types of graph-based recommendation systems, including user-item bipartite graphs, social recommendation systems, knowledge graph-based recommendation systems, and hybrid graph-based recommendation systems. We also looked at some state-of-the-art techniques like graph convolutional networks, random walk with restart, graph attention networks, and graph autoencoders.

Graph-based recommendation systems are an exciting area of research and are becoming increasingly popular in different applications. By leveraging the power of graphs, we can generate recommendations that are more relevant, personalized, and engaging than ever before.

Editor Recommended Sites

AI and Tech News
Best Online AI Courses
Classic Writing Analysis
Tears of the Kingdom Roleplay
Networking Place: Networking social network, similar to linked-in, but for your business and consulting services
Flutter News: Flutter news today, the latest packages, widgets and tutorials
Video Game Speedrun: Youtube videos of the most popular games being speed run
Haskell Community: Haskell Programming community websites. Discuss haskell best practice and get help
Digital Transformation: Business digital transformation learning framework, for upgrading a business to the digital age