Puppeteer vs Selenium: Main Differences

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
Puppeteer vs Selenium: Main Differences
Daniel Shashko
Daniel Shashko | Master of SEO
01-May-2022
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Puppeteer and Selenium are open-source browser automation solutions. In this article we will discuss:

Puppeteer vs. Selenium: Where Do They Come From?

Google Puppeteer is a Node.js library and browser testing framework. This technology is designed to provide a high-level application programming interface to control headless Chrome over the DevTools Protocol. While Selenium supports many browsers and languages, Puppeteer focuses exclusively on Chrome, Chromium, and Javascript. Puppeteer is a remote control library for Chrome, while Selenium is a complete browser application testing solution.

Puppeteer was written by a team at Google, who have unmatched access to the internals of the Chrome browser. Puppeteer v1.0.0 was released on January 11, 2018, and since then it has had 89 releases. The latest release, Puppeteer 13.6.0, was released on April 20, 2022. The Puppeteer community has 414 contributors and over 200,000 users.

Puppeteer is used for screenshot testing, performance testing, web scraping, and automation. Unlike Selenium, Puppeteer does not have a purpose-built Integrated Development Environment (IDE) to write test scripts and manage test suites. A user simply writes Javascript code using their preferred IDE, leveraging the Puppeteer library. Puppeteer can also be used for data scraping. Integrating Puppeteer with proxies can be accomplished in several ways.

Selenium is a collection of open-source tools that support browser application testing. Selenium was started by a company called Thoughtworks and launched in 2004. Its primary focus is browser application testing. It has three major components: Selenium WebDriver, Selenium IDE, and Selenium Grid. Selenium supports application testing for several browsers: Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer, Edge, and Opera. Selenium scripts support JavaScript, Java, Ruby, C#, and Python. 

Selenium gets its name from a joke by Jason Huggins, the creator of Selenium’s first product ‘Selenium Core’, made in 2004. At the time, the software testing market was dominated by Mercury Interactive. Jason joked in an email to his collaborators, “Mercury poisoning can be cured by taking Selenium Supplement“. The name stuck.

Selenium is an open-source solution. It was initially launched in 2004 and has steadily evolved since then. There have been 73 releases since then. Selenium 4.1.0 was released on November 22, 2021. The community has over 632 contributors and over 140,000 users.

Selenium is used for web application testing, web performance testing, and data scraping. It is especially valuable for applications that need to be tested on multiple browsers and platforms. Selenium has three major components. 

Selenium WebDriver is an interface that allows a user to write instructions that work interchangeably across browsers. Test scripts can be written for several languages. 

Selenium IDE is an integrated development environment. It is available as a Chrome or Firefox add-on. It allows for recording, editing, and debugging of functional testing. The recording and playback functions significantly accelerate the development and execution of tests.

Selenium Grid allows the execution of WebDriver scripts on remote machines by routing commands sent by the client to remote browser instances. Selenium Grid can run tests in parallel on multiple machines and manages different browser versions and browser configurations centrally.

Puppeteer vs. Selenium: Major Features & Functions

Puppeteer is a complete solution for automating Chrome. The primary advantage of using Puppeteer is its access to the DevTools Protocol and the ability to control Chrome. Since Puppeteer is a Node library it can be easily installed using npm or Yarn. Selenium requires a more complicated installation to account for all the modules and the specific browsers and languages you are using. Puppeteer runs extremely fast, whereas Selenium requires WebDriver to send script commands to the browsers.

Puppeteer provides significant performance management capabilities like recording runtime and load performance, capturing screenshots, and even throttling CPU performance to simulate performance on mobile devices. Selenium does not offer such performance management capabilities.

Selenium is a solution dedicated to testing applications that run in multiple browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, etc.) on different operating systems (Windows, Linux, and Mac OS). Many web applications cannot dictate which browsers a user must use. As a result, developers must test their apps for multiple browsers. 

The Selenium IDE is used to write Selenium test scripts and suites. It supports the recording of test scripts which dramatically improves tester productivity. On the flip side, the Selenium IDE and Selenese are another set of tools and languages that developers need to learn, in comparison to Puppeteer’s Node.js package approach.

Selenium Grid manages the execution of Selenium tests on multiple machines/browsers. This allows the execution of one test on multiple browsers and platforms. The parallel execution of test suites reduces the elapsed time required to complete application testing.

Puppeteer vs. Selenium: Ease of Use

Puppeteer is easy for experienced JavaScript developers to use. Puppeteer is a Node.js package that behaves like other Node.js packages such as http, querystring, npm, or util. Developers will be familiar with the approach to using its classes, methods, and events. This approach, however, is code intensive. Puppeteer lacks the testing automation capabilities of Selenium which greatly improves QA productivity. 

Puppeteer is focused on controlling Chrome browsers. It is not a dedicated testing solution. It does not offer an IDE like Selenium, nor a tool to manage parallel and distributed testing. Puppeteer’s recording capabilities are focused on performance management. Selenium’s IDE recorder concentrates on recording test scripts and suites. These types of automation greatly improve productivity.

Since it supports many browsers, languages, and platforms, Selenium is a more complex solution than Puppeteer. The installation and configuration of Selenium WebDriver and Selenium Grid are non-trivial, versus Puppeteer with npm or Yarn.

Selenese is the language used to define Selenium test scripts. It is a high level language that developers need to learn to write and execute Selenium tests. Selense offers a ‘least common denominator’ approach – its commands can run in JavaScript, Java, Ruby, C#, and Python. Puppeteer uses JavaScript but can access every aspect of the Chrome DevTools protocol. There is a learning curve with Selenese.

Which Is a Better Fit for You?

Testing of web applications is critical. Quality Assurance (QA) can consume 30% to 40% of the time in a typical release cycle. QA automation tools can dramatically improve the effectiveness and productivity of development tools. 

Puppeteer is a Node.js package that provides a high-level application programming interface to control headless Chrome over the DevTools Protocol. Selenium is a full suite of tools that supports the development and execution of tests for a wide variety of browsers, languages, and operating environments. 

Both Selenium and Puppeteer can be extended to provide additional capabilities. Selenium and Puppeteer can support data scraping. Integrating Selenium with a proxy provider can overcome geographic and other restrictions websites implement to frustrate data scraping. There are also several GitHub projects that offer solutions to defeat browser fingerprinting.

The bottom line

The choice between Selenium and Puppeteer boils down to your needs. If your primary focus is testing browser applications, especially on multiple browsers, Selenium is a better choice. It is purpose-built for cross platform testing. If you are exclusively focused on Chrome and JavaScript, Puppeteer is a better fit.

Daniel Shashko
Daniel Shashko | Master of SEO

Daniel is an SEO specialist here at Bright Data with a B2C background. He is in charge of ensuring that businesses get exposed to articles that help them become more data-driven. He is fascinated by the intricate inner workings that the digital world is comprised of and how these can be navigated for hypergrowth.

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