Harnessing WebGL and WebSockets for a Web-Based Collaborative Graph Exploration Tool

  • Björn ZimmerEmail author
  • Andreas Kerren
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 9114)


The advancements of web technologies in recent years made it possible to switch from traditional desktop software to online solutions. Today, people naturally use web applications to work together on documents, spreadsheets, or blogs in real time. Also interactive data visualizations are more and more shared in the web. They are thus easily accessible, and it is possible to collaboratively discuss and explore complex data sets. A still open problem in collaborative information visualization is the online exploration of node-link diagrams of graphs (or networks) in fields such as social sciences or systems biology. In this paper, we address challenges related to this research problem and present a client/server-based visualization system for the collaborative exploration of graphs. Our approach uses WebGL to render large graphs in a web application and provides tools to coordinate the analysis process of multiple users in synchronous as well as asynchronous sessions.


Collaboration Web user interfaces WebGL WebSockets Network visualization Graph drawing 


  1. 1.
    Chuah, M., Roth, S.: Visualizing common ground. In: Proceedings of the International Conference on Information Visualization (IV 2003), pp. 365–372. IEEE (2003)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Heer, J., Agrawala, M.: Design Considerations for Collaborative Visual Analytics. Information Visualization 7(1), 49–62 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Isenberg, P., Elmqvist, N., Cernea, D., Scholtz, J., Ma, K.-L., Hagen, H.: Collaborative Visualization: Definition, Challenges, and Research Agenda. Information Visualization 10(4), 310–326 (2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Zimmer, B., Kerren, A.: Applying heat maps in a web-based collaborative graph visualization. In: Poster Abstracts, IEEE Information Visualization (InfoVis 2014), France, Paris (2014)Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Zimmer, B., Kerren, A.: Sensemaking and provenance in distributed collaborative node-link visualizations. In: Abstract Papers, IEEE VIS 2014 Workshop: Provenance for Sensemaking, France, Paris (2014)Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Kandel, S., Heer, J., Plaisant, C., Kennedy, J., van Ham, F., Riche, N.H., Weaver, C., Lee, B., Brodbeck, D., Buono, P.: Research directions in data wrangling: Visualizations and transformations for usable and credible data. Information Visualization 10(4), 271–288 (2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    KEGG: Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes. (accessed July 10, 2014)
  8. 8.
    Shannon, P., Markiel, A., Ozier, O., Baliga, N.S., Wang, J.T., Ramage, D., Amin, N., Schwikowski, B., Ideker, T.: Cytoscape: a software environment for integrated models of biomolecular interaction networks. Genome Research 13(11), 2498–2504 (2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Bastian, M., Heymann, S., Jacomy, M.: Gephi: an open source software for exploring and manipulating networks. In: International AAAI Conference on Weblogs and Social Media (2009)Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Batagelj, V., Mrvar, A.: Pajek - analysis and visualization of large networks. In: Mutzel, P., Jünger, M., Leipert, S. (eds.) GD 2001. LNCS, vol. 2265, pp. 477–478. Springer, Heidelberg (2002). CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Auber, D.: Tulip: data visualization software. In: Graph Drawing, pp. 435–437 (2001)Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    von Landesberger, T., Kuijper, A., Schreck, T., Kohlhammer, J., van Wijk, J., Fekete, J.-D., Fellner, D.: Visual analysis of large graphs: State-of-the-art and future research challenges. Computer Graphics Forum 30(6), 1719–1749 (2011). CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Kerren, A., Purchase, H.C., Ward, M.O.: Multivariate Network Visualization, ser. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol. 8380. Springer (2014)Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Kerren, A., Schreiber, F.: Network visualization for integrative bioinformatics. In: Chen, M., Hofestädt, R. (eds.) Approaches in Integrative Bioinformatics - Towards the Virtual Cell, pp. 173–202. Springer, Heidelberg (2014)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Heer, J., van Ham, F., Carpendale, S., Weaver, C., Isenberg, P.: Creation and collaboration: engaging new audiences for information visualization. In: Kerren, A., Stasko, J.T., Fekete, J.-D., North, C. (eds.) Information Visualization. LNCS, vol. 4950, pp. 92–133. Springer, Heidelberg (2008) CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Viégas, A.B., Wattenberg, M., Ham, F.V., Kriss, J., Mckeon, M.: Many eyes: A site for visualization at internet scale. IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics 13(6), 1121–1128 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Heer, J., Viégas, F., Wattenberg, M.: Voyagers and voyeurs: supporting asynchronous collaborative information visualization. In: ACM Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI), pp. 1029–1038 (2007)Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    McKeon, M.: Harnessing the Information Ecosystem with Wiki-based Visualization Dashboards. IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics 15(6), 1081–1088 (2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Samizdat Drafting Co. Arbor.js. (accessed January 2015)
  20. 20.
    Jacomy, A.: sigma.js. (accessed January 2015)
  21. 21.
    Kashcha, A.: Vivagraphjs. (accessed January 2015)
  22. 22.
    Kerren, A., Ebert, A., Meyer, J. (eds.): Human-Centered Visualization Environments, ser. LNCS Tutorial, vol. 4417. Springer, Heidelberg (2007)Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Dix, A., Finlay, J.E., Abowd, G.D., Beale, R.: Human-Computer Interaction, 3rd edn. Prentice Hall, London (2003) Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Baecker, R.M.: Readings in GroupWare and Computer-Supported Cooperative Work: Assisting Human-Human Collaboration, 1st edn. Morgan Kaufmann Publishers Inc., San Francisco (1994) Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Kerren, A., Stasko, J.T., Fekete, J.-D., North, C. (eds.): Information Visualization, Human-Centered Issues and Perspectives, ser. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol. 4950. Springer (2008)Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Dieberger, A., Dourish, P., Höök, K.: Social Navigation: Techniques for Building more Usable Systems. Interactions 7(6), November 2000Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Gutwin, C., Greenberg, S.: Design for individuals, design for groups: tradeoffs between power and workspace awareness. In: Proceedings of the 1998 ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work, ser. CSCW 1998, pp. 207–216. ACM, New York (1998)Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Gentle, J.: ShareJS - Live concurrent editing in your app. (accessed January 2014)
  29. 29.
    The Apache Software Foundation. Apache Wave. (accessed January 2014)
  30. 30.
    TweenJS. (accessed January 2015)
  31. 31.
    Khronos Group. WebGL Specification. Editor’s Draft 1, July 2014. (accessed January 2015)
  32. 32.
    Bostock, M.: D3 - data-driven documents. (accessed January 2015)
  33. 33.
    Cabello, R.: Three.js. (accessed January 2015)
  34. 34.
    World Wide Web Consortium. The WebSocket API. (accessed January 2015)
  35. 35.
    Neo Technology, Inc., Neo4j. (accessed January 2015)
  36. 36.
    O’Madadhain, J., Fisher, D., Nelson, T.: JUNG - Java Universal Network/Graph Framework. (accessed January 2015)
  37. 37.
    Ellis, C.A., Gibbs, S.J.: Concurrency control in groupware systems. SIGMOD Rec. 18(2), 399–407 (1989)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Animating a Million Letters Using Three.js. (accessed January 2015)
  39. 39.
    Gretarsson, B., Bostandjiev, S., O’Donovan, J., Höllerer, T.: WiGis: a framework for scalable web-based interactive graph visualizations. In: Eppstein, D., Gansner, E.R. (eds.) GD 2009. LNCS, vol. 5849, pp. 119–134. Springer, Heidelberg (2010) CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    World Wide Web Consortium. WebRTC. (accessed January 2015)
  41. 41.
    Web Workers. (accessed January 2015)

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Computer Science, ISOVIS GroupLinnaeus UniversityVäxjöSweden

Personalised recommendations