Puppeteer vs Selenium

This ultimate guide will cover origins of both libraries, key features/functions, and most importantly: How to choose the option that is best for your business
10 min read
Puppeteer vs Selenium
Puppeteer vs. Selenium infographic
Puppeteer vs. Selenium infographic

Puppeteer and Selenium, both open source libraries, are widely used tools that automate browser interactions, enabling the extraction of large amounts of data. Puppeteer works by intercepting and translating Chrome’s network requests into commands for the web engine, whereas Selenium operates by receiving commands, which it then relays to a browser for interacting with web applications.

In this article, you’ll look at the main differences between these two tools to help you figure out which is best for your use case.

What Is Puppeteer?

Puppeteer is an open source Node.js library that’s designed to be used primarily with Chrome or Chromium browsers, offering control through a high-level API leveraging the DevTools Protocol. It can also support other browsers that are compatible with this protocol.

Puppeteer has been used for a wide range of tasks, including automated testing, page screenshots, PDF generation, Chrome extension testing, search engine optimization (SEO) content rendering, and web scraping.

What Is Selenium?

Selenium is an open source framework that’s primarily used for automating web application testing. It utilizes the WebDriver protocol to simulate realistic user interactions during the testing process. Selenium consists of tools such as the Selenium IDESelenium WebDriver, and Selenium Grid, enabling the automation of intricate scenarios within web applications.

Puppeteer vs. Selenium: Key Differences

Now that you know a little more about each tool individually, let’s compare them based on the following categories:

Browser Support

Puppeteer is primarily meant to work with Chromium-based browsers, such as Brave and the more popular Chrome. This gives you direct access to advanced Chromium browser features and APIs. Additionally, its Chromium integration makes it highly compatible with web standards, resulting in the consistent behavior of test scripts across different environments. However, it’s important to note that it has limited functionality and support for other browsers and is incompatible with both Firefox and Safari.

In contrast, Selenium provides support for various browsers, including Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. This ensures broader coverage and more comprehensive testing scenarios. However, this versatility can introduce challenges because each browser interprets and displays web content differently, which means achieving consistent synchronization across various browsers requires extra time and effort.

Ecosystem

The Puppeteer ecosystem is rapidly growing, as evidenced by its increased usage among developers, which rose from 27 percent in 2019 to 37 percent in 2021. It has also achieved a 101 percent increase in the number of downloads over the last two years, with the current figure standing at 5.6 million downloads. But given its more recent debut on the scene (in 2018), it lags behind the more mature Selenium, which was released in 2004.

Selenium offers a robust ecosystem of web automation tools and frameworks. For instance, Selenium Grid makes it easier to run parallel tests across multiple machines, and the Selenium IDE recording and playback feature speeds up test development and execution. Selenium also offers plugins and integrations with other tools, which extend its functionality and usability in various scenarios. This solidifies its position as a preferred choice for extensive testing solutions.

Language Support

Puppeteer was designed primarily for Node.js and JavaScript environments, making it an obvious choice for developers working with those stacks. It can also run JavaScript within web pages, making it valuable for effectively interacting with dynamic web pages and pre-rendering content for JavaScript-heavy websites to display their final state.

In contrast, Selenium supports multiple programming languages, including Java, Python, C#, Ruby, and JavaScript. This support broadens its appeal across various developer communities and makes it easy to integrate into different development and testing environments.

Puppeteer vs Selenium Setup Complexity

Puppeteer comes bundled with Chromium, which means you don’t need a separate driver installation. However, setting it up and integrating it into existing workflows requires a good grasp of JavaScript and Node.js environments and dependencies.

Nevertheless, Puppeteer is not as difficult to set up as Selenium. With Selenium, you have to install the Selenium library and driver(s) for various browsers and make sure that they’re all compatible, which can be complicated and challenging, especially for beginners. This can also make it difficult to integrate Selenium with existing projects and development environments.

Speed and Resource Usage

Puppeteer is often considered faster and more efficient, especially in headless mode, due to its resource optimization. However, when you install Puppeteer, it includes the entire Chromium browser, resulting in a large footprint. This slows down installations and, in some cases, harms overall performance, particularly when multiple instances are running in a resource-constrained environment.

In comparison, Selenium can be slower and require more resources than Puppeteer, which is partially caused by the additional overhead from its use of WebDrivers to communicate with browser instances. This, along with the actual runtime of Selenium tests across different browsers, can consume significant system resources and introduce performance overheads.
You also need to periodically maintain your scripts, particularly for dynamic web applications with elements whose behaviors change frequently. This can be time-consuming and add to the maintenance overhead.

Community and Documentation

Puppeteer, which is maintained by Google, has good documentation and a growing userbase, but Selenium has a large and active community that contributes to the development of new features. This community is well-established, with extensive documentation, user forums, and third-party tutorials, making it easier for new users to learn and solve issues. This gives Selenium a significant advantage.

Cross-Browser Testing

The limitations of Puppeteer to Chromium-based browsers make Puppeteer unsuitable for cross-browser testing. While Puppeteer offers extensions for other browsers, it lacks the built-in breadth and depth of capabilities of Selenium. This limits cross-browser testing and can lead to developers overlooking browser-specific issues, resulting in testing scenarios that do not accurately reflect diverse real-world user environments.

Selenium, with its extensive browser support, is optimal for cross-browser testing and provides better out-of-the-box support for parallel testing across different platforms and devices. This makes Selenium the preferred choice for ensuring compatibility and functional consistency in diverse web environments.

CategoryPuppeteerSelenium
Browser supportOptimized for Chromium-based browsers (Chrome, Brave); limited support for others, such as Firefox and Safari.Supports a wide range of browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge)
EcosystemGrowing ecosystem with fewer tools and frameworks than Selenium; released in 2018Mature ecosystem with extensive tools and frameworks; released in 2004
Language supportDesigned primarily for JavaScriptSupports multiple programming languages (Java, Python, C#, Ruby, and JavaScript)
Setup complexityStraightforward setup; requires knowledge of JavaScriptMore complex setup; requires the installation of Selenium library and browser drivers
Speed and resource usageFaster and more efficient, particularly in headless mode; large footprint due to bundled ChromiumPotentially slower with more resource usage due to WebDriver overhead
Community and documentationGood documentation with a smaller communityLarge, active community with extensive documentation and user forums
Cross-browser testingLimited to Chromium-based browsers, unsuitable for extensive cross-browser testingOptimal for cross-browser testing across different platforms and devices

Introducing the Bright Data Scraping Browser

Whether you choose Selenium or Puppeteer for your web automation needs, the Bright Data Scraping Browser can help you overcome website access restrictions and streamline your data collection processes.

Bright Data is a web data platform that offers award-winning proxy networks, powerful web scrapers, and downloadable data sets. One of its scraping solutions is the Scraping Browser, which provides browsers with web-unblocking automation, allowing you to access websites that restrict automated browser activities. It can be integrated with both Puppeteer and Selenium to improve web scraping capabilities with features such as proxy rotationCAPTCHA solving, and browser fingerprinting.

Integrating the Bright Data Scraping Browser with Puppeteer

Integrating the Bright Data Scraping Browser with Puppeteer is easy. All you have to do is modify your Puppeteer script to direct traffic through the Bright Data proxy server. The following code snippet shows you how to do this. Make sure to first set up your JavaScript environment and a code editor such as Visual Studio Code if you don’t have one already. Then install puppeteer-core via npm i puppeteer-core:

const puppeteer = require('puppeteer-core');
const AUTH = 'USER:PASS';
const SBR_WS_ENDPOINT = `wss://${AUTH}@brd.superproxy.io:9222`;

async function main() {
    console.log('Connecting to Scraping Browser...');
    const browser = await puppeteer.connect({
        browserWSEndpoint: SBR_WS_ENDPOINT,
    });

    try {
        console.log('Connected! Navigating...');
        const page = await browser.newPage();
        await page.goto('https://brightdata.com/', { timeout: 2 * 60 * 1000 });
        // ... perform other actions
    } finally {
        await browser.close();
   }
}

if (require.main === module) {
    main().catch(err => {
        console.error(err.stack || err);
        process.exit(1);
   });
}

In this code block, you import the puppeteer-core library. Then you set up your authentication credentials and the web socket endpoint for the Bright Data Scraping Browser. You establish a connection to the Scraping Browser with puppeteer.connect, open a new page with browser.newPage, navigate to a URL with page.goto, and close the browser with browser.close().

Integrating the Bright Data Scraping Browser with Selenium

Integrating the Bright Data Scraping Browser with Selenium is straightforward. All you have to do is configure your Selenium WebDriver to use the Bright Data proxy by specifying the proxy IP and port provided by Bright Data, as you can see in the following code. If you’re following along, make sure to first install Python and a code editor such as Visual Studio Code. Then install Selenium via the pip command pip3 install selenium:

from selenium.webdriver import Remote, ChromeOptions
from selenium.webdriver.chromium.remote_connection import ChromiumRemoteConnection

AUTH = 'USER:PASS'
SBR_WEBDRIVER = f'https://{AUTH}@brd.superproxy.io:9515'

def main():
    print('Connecting to Scraping Browser...')
    sbr_connection = ChromiumRemoteConnection(SBR_WEBDRIVER, 'goog', 'chrome')

    with Remote(sbr_connection, options=ChromeOptions()) as driver:
        print('Connected! Navigating...')
        driver.get('https://brightdata.com/')
        # ... perform other actions

if __name__ == '__main__':
    main()

In this code block, you import all the necessary modules from Selenium. Then you define AUTH and SBR_WEBDRIVER, which are the authentication details and Selenium WebDriver URLs for Bright Data.

You configure a connection to the Scraping Browser using ChromiumRemoteConnection, create a remote Selenium driver instance with Remote and ChromeOptions, and navigate to a specified URL via driver.get. You do these in a context manager with the with keyword to ensure that the driver closes after completing the specified tasks.

Conclusion

In this article, you’ve compared Puppeteer and Selenium, two popular web automation tools.

Puppeteer is optimized for Chromium-based browser support and provides a more straightforward setup, making it ideal for JavaScript-centric environments and rapid development. In contrast, Selenium is better for complex cross-browser testing due to its broad browser compatibility and support for multiple programming languages.

If you’re looking for fast, efficient testing in the Chromium browser, then Puppeteer has what you need. If, however, you want to test across multiple browsers and programming languages in a variety of web environments and projects, Selenium is the better option.

Whether you decide to work with Puppeteer or Selenium, the Bright Data Scraping Browser can help you add website-unblocking functionality to your Puppeteer and Selenium scripts. This makes it useful for accessing and scraping data from websites that might otherwise restrict automated browser activities.