One for the price of two: A unified approach for approximating covering problems

  • Reuven Bar-Yehuda
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 1444)


We present a simple and unified approach for developing and analyzing approximation algorithms for covering problems. We illustrate this on approximation algorithms for the following problems: Vertex Cover, Set Cover, Feedback Vertex Set, Generalized Steiner Forest and related problems.

The main idea can be phrased as follows: iteratively, pay two dollars (at most) to reduce the total optimum by one dollar (at least), so the rate of payment is no more than twice the rate of the optimum reduction. This implies a total payment (i.e., approximation cost) ≤ twice the optimum cost.

Our main contribution is based on a formal definition for covering problems, which includes all the above fundamental problems and others. We further extend the Bafna, Berman and Fujito Local-Ratio theorem. This extension eventually yields a short generic r-approximation algorithm which can generate most known approximation algorithms for most covering problems.

Another extension of the Local-Ratio theorem to randomized algorithms gives a simple proof of Pitt's randomized approximation for Vertex Cover. Using this approach, we develop a modified greedy algorithm, which for Vertex Cover, gives an expected performance ratio ≤ 2.


Approximation Algorithm Local Ratio Covering Problems Vertex Cover Set Cover Feedback Vertex Set Generalized Steiner Forest Randomized Approximations 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Reuven Bar-Yehuda
    • 1
  1. 1.Computer Science DeptTecnion IITHaifaIsrael

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