Google Research

Knapsack auctions

SODA (2006), pp. 1083-1092


We consider a game theoretic knapsack problem that has application to auctions for selling advertisements on Internet search engines. Consider n agents each wishing to place an object in the knapsack. Each agent has a private valuation for having their object in the knapsack and each object has a publicly known size. For this setting, we consider the design of auctions in which agents have an incentive to truthfully reveal their private valuations. Following the framework of Goldberg et al., we look to design an auction that obtains a constant fraction of the profit obtainable by a natural optimal pricing algorithm that knows the agents’ valuations and object sizes. We give an auction that obtains a constant factor approximation in the non-trivial special case where the knapsack has unlimited capacity. We then reduce the limited capacity version of the problem to the unlimited capacity version via an approximately efficient auction (i.e., one that maximizes the social welfare). This reduction follows from generalizable principles.

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