What is Selenium WebDriver?

Posted Jul 3, 2020

selenium framework

As many testing teams move from manual to automated testing, finding a framework that works for them can be overwhelming. The majority of teams moving to automation have heard of Selenium WebDriver and know it as a free and open source tool used for web automation. But with the proliferation of open source testing frameworks, many wonder if this long-time standard for cross browser automation can still provide the best solution.

What is WebDriver? 

Selenium WebDriver is a collection of open source APIs which are used to automate the testing of a web application. While Selenium itself has many iterations within its suite of tools, WebDriver is the web automation framework that allows users to execute their tests against a variety of different browsers, rather than just testing on Firefox or Chrome. The Selenium Suite has four separate tools which support automation in different ways. This includes the Selenium Integrated Development Environment (IDE), Selenium Remote Control (Now Deprecated), WebDriver, and Selenium Grid. 

How To Use Selenium WebDriver?

Selenium WebDriver is a great starting point for teams moving from manual testing to automated testing because of its breadth of coverage with client drivers. Selenium WebDriver is essentially language agnostic, and functions with the following language-specific client drivers: 

  • Ruby

  • Java

  • Python

  • C#

  • JavaScript 

After writing an automation script using your language of choice via  client drivers, your tests can run automatically, accept commands and send them to your desired browser to execute the test. 

Testing Speed

Selenium WebDriver also allows you to increase the speed at which you can execute cross browser tests, ensuring that you have the best amount of cross browser coverage possible, and all in an automated fashion. It allows you to create automated tests that are written in an efficient manner to test throughout your pipeline and across browsers. By implementing these Continuous Testing Practices, your team can focus more on creating higher quality code at a faster rate, thus creating better applications with Selenium Webdrive and customer experience.

Pros of Selenium WebDriver

Selenium WebDriver’s breadth of coverage of languages, ability to accelerate cross browser testing at scale, as well as its longstanding reputation in the software testing space makes it the perfect tool to choose when your team is looking to move from manual to automated testing. All of the components of Selenium WebDriver give you the tools you need to begin their process of automating tests to the point that you can begin increasing testing volume . 

Continuous automated testing allows you to test throughout the entire development pipeline, which gives you the ability to release software faster, without having to sacrifice quality. Having these processes of an automated testing practice including Selenium WebDriver allows your team to focus more on higher quality code creation, faster deployment, and high amounts of coverage. Implementing this kind of automation and testing culture at your company allows your company to be on the path to becoming more digitally confident.  

Drawbacks of WebDriver

However, as with any automation tool, Selenium WebDriver has its drawbacks. There are some testing capabilities that are impossible to automate with Selenium Webdriver, such as randomly generated elements like CAPTCHA (but don’t worry, there are many well documented workarounds that can help overcome this blocker). Additionally, Selenium is only compatible with testing web applications.

Those hoping to test native or mobile applications can use Selenium’s mobile counterpart, Appium.  As tests become longer and more involved, many notice a deprecation in execution speed. By following a few selenium best practices you can help mitigate that risk. In fact, some may see this as a benefit of using Selenium, as it requires developers and testers alike to practice writing high quality code and tests so as to ensure there are no quality bottlenecks in the pipeline. Finally, another drawback to Selenium is that there is no reporting feature out of the box or a way to upload feature files out of the box initially. However, this is exactly why solutions like Sauce Labs exist, as our solution provides some of these features as part of our Continuous Testing Cloud. Generally speaking, all of these Selenium WebDriver flaws are extremely specific and for most teams looking to start out with automation, Selenium is a flexible and scalable choice..  

Other Resources

Co-founded by the creator of Selenium, Sauce Labs provides a number of resources to learn more about getting started with test automation. Our documentation on  Getting Started with Selenium provides a great overview of the basics of Selenium.  Start your online browser tests with a free 14-day trial with Sauce Labs today!

If you’re ready to advance your Selenium skills be sure to check out

Written by

Abigail Kurtzman