Simon Lacoste-Julien, Martin Jaggi
The Frank-Wolfe (FW) optimization algorithm has lately re-gained popularity thanks in particular to its ability to nicely handle the structured constraints appearing in machine learning applications. However, its convergence rate is known to be slow (sublinear) when the solution lies at the boundary. A simple less-known fix is to add the possibility to take
away steps' during optimization, an operation that importantly does not require a feasibility oracle. In this paper, we highlight and clarify several variants of the Frank-Wolfe optimization algorithm that has been successfully applied in practice: FW with away steps, pairwise FW, fully-corrective FW and Wolfe's minimum norm point algorithm, and prove for the first time that they all enjoy global linear convergence under a weaker condition than strong convexity. The constant in the convergence rate has an elegant interpretation as the product of the (classical) condition number of the function with a novel geometric quantity that plays the role of thecondition number' of the constraint set. We provide pointers to where these algorithms have made a difference in practice, in particular with the flow polytope, the marginal polytope and the base polytope for submodular optimization.