Image Matters: Visually modeling user behaviors using Advanced Model Server

In Taobao, the largest e-commerce platform in China, billions of items are provided and typically displayed with their images. For better user experience and business effectiveness, Click Through Rate (CTR) prediction in online advertising system exploits abundant user historical behaviors to identify whether a user is interested in a candidate ad. Enhancing behavior representations with user behavior images will help understand user's visual preference and improve the accuracy of CTR prediction greatly. So we propose to model user preference jointly with user behavior ID features and behavior images. However, training with user behavior images brings tens to hundreds of images in one sample, giving rise to a great challenge in both communication and computation. To handle these challenges, we propose a novel and efficient distributed machine learning paradigm called Advanced Model Server (AMS). With the well known Parameter Server (PS) framework, each server node handles a separate part of parameters and updates them independently. AMS goes beyond this and is designed to be capable of learning a unified image descriptor model shared by all server nodes which embeds large images into low dimensional high level features before transmitting images to worker nodes. AMS thus dramatically reduces the communication load and enables the arduous joint training process. Based on AMS, the methods of effectively combining the images and ID features are carefully studied, and then we propose a Deep Image CTR Model. Our approach is shown to achieve significant improvements in both online and offline evaluations, and has been deployed in Taobao display advertising system serving the main traffic.

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