Choosing The Right Framework: Selenium vs. Playwright For Web Automation Testing

Software developers need Selenium testing to verify application functionality, reliability, performance, and compatibility across environments.  Using specialized software to execute tests, manage test data, and compare expected and actual results automates tedious but necessary tasks. The right automation testing framework affects testing efficiency, coverage, scalability, and integration with other development pipeline tools and processes.

Web automation testing frameworks Selenium and Playwright each have their strengths. For over a decade, open-source Selenium has provided web browser automation tools and libraries.  Multiple browsers, OSes, and programming languages are supported.

Playwright, a recent addition from Microsoft, is known for its innovative browser automation. Playwright supports single-page apps and web components out of the box, runs tests faster, and simplifies syntax. Development and testing teams choose Selenium or Playwright based on project needs, team expertise, and automation challenges.

What is Selenium?

Jason Huggins first presented Selenium as a JavaScript library that could automate browser interactions in 2004. From being a basic tool, it developed into a comprehensive software suite that included Selenium WebDriver and Selenium Grid, forming the foundation of Selenium 2.0.

The primary functionality of Selenium is its capacity to replicate user actions on web browsers, including clicking links, completing forms, and navigating pages. Selenium WebDriver controls browsers programmatically, Selenium Grid parallelizes test execution across browsers and environments, and Selenium IDE records and replays tests. Many plugins and integrations with other testing frameworks and CI/CD tools make it versatile for complex testing needs.

What is Playwright?

Microsoft launched Playwright in early 2020 as an open-source web application testing project. It supported modern web technologies and sped up testing frameworks.

Playwright was initially only available for Node.js, but community efforts supported Python, Java, and C#, expanding its audience. Directly supporting Firefox, WebKit, and Chromium-based browsers (including Chrome and Edge) ensures tests run in almost any web environment, including mobile browsers, through device emulation.

Selenium Architecture

Selenium’s modular architecture simplifies web automation. The Selenium WebDriver, a web browser interface, is most important. It lets tests be written regardless of the browser by interacting with browser-specific drivers (like GeckoDriver for Firefox and ChromeDriver for Chrome) via a standard API.

WebDriver uses the built-in automation support of web browsers to communicate with them. WebDriver issues commands to the browser’s driver, which carries out the commands inside the browser when a test script is run. To accomplish this, HTTP requests must be sent to the WebDriver server, which converts them into browser actions like clicking a button or visiting a URL.

Selenium Grid lets you run Selenium tests on multiple computers and browsers at once, saving time. It sends commands to remote browser instances on different browsers and operating systems. Large test suites or applications that must be tested on various browser and OS combinations will find this especially helpful.

Playwright Architecture

The architecture of Playwright is made to interface directly with the WebKit, Firefox, and Chromium browser engines. This design allows for more granular control over browser behavior and enables features not readily available in Selenium, such as network interception and mocking.

Playwright relies on “browser contexts,” which are browser environments. This allows parallel tests in the same browser instance with different cookies, storage, and cache states, mimicking separate browser instances. This method streamlines parallel testing and simplifies test setup for different user sessions or environments.

Playwright directly communicates with browser engines, unlike Selenium, which uses WebDriver to communicate with browser-specific drivers. Direct communication speeds up command execution and supports advanced features like auto-waiting for elements to be ready before interacting with them.

Due to its lower overhead in starting and managing multiple browser instances, Playwright’s browser context support makes parallel testing more efficient than Selenium Grid.

Setup and Use Ease

Selenium and Playwright have easy installation and setup to make test automation more accessible. However, each procedure, learning curve, and community support can vary greatly between the two frameworks.

Installation and setup process for Selenium

To get started with Selenium, users typically need to:

  • Install a programming language SDK (e.g., Java, Python) that Selenium supports.
  • Install Selenium bindings for the chosen language through a package manager (e.g., pip for Python, Maven for Java).
  • Download the appropriate web driver for the browsers where tests will be run (e.g., ChromeDriver for Chrome, GeckoDriver for Firefox).
  • Configure the environment to recognize the web driver’s location.

This process has multiple steps and external dependencies that vary by operating system and browser.

Installation and setup process for Playwright

Playwright aims to simplify the setup process:

  • Install Node.js: Playwright scripts cannot be run without it.
  • Using npm to install Playwright causes the browser binaries for WebKit, Firefox, and Chrome to be downloaded automatically.
  • Write tests using Playwright’s API without additional driver downloads or environment configuration.

Playwright simplifies installation by handling browser binaries and requiring fewer steps.

Test Creation and Execution

Here are the steps involved in test creation and execution for both Selenium and Playwright –


  1. Writing and Running Tests

Selenium tests involve the WebDriver API, which provides web element interaction commands.  Test scripts can be written in Java, C#, Python, and JavaScript. Start a WebDriver instance for the preferred browser, visit websites, and click and type. Assertions verify results. Language-specific test runners like JUnit for Java or pytest for Python are needed for testing.

  1. Integration with Test Frameworks

Selenium seamlessly integrates with various test frameworks and tools, enhancing its capabilities for test management, reporting, and build integration. This flexibility allows teams to incorporate Selenium tests into their existing development workflows, leveraging tools like TestNG, JUnit, NUnit, and others for structured test execution and reporting.

  1. Cross-Browser Testing Capabilities

One of Selenium’s strengths is cross-browser testing. Different WebDriver implementations can run tests on different browsers and versions to ensure web applications work properly in different settings. Selenium Grid parallelizes cross-browser tests across devices and browsers, saving time.


  1. Writing and Running Tests

A concise and powerful API simplifies web element interaction and automates browser contexts and pages in Playwright tests. The framework supports JavaScript, TypeScript, Python, C#, and Java testing with a simple syntax for page navigation, data input, and state verification. Playwright’s integrated test runner lets you run tests from the command line or scripts, including headless mode for faster execution.

  1. Native Support for Parallel Testing

Playwright is designed with parallel testing in mind, offering native support for running multiple tests simultaneously across different browser contexts. This capability is built into the Playwright test runner, eliminating the need for additional tools or complex configurations to achieve parallelism. This feature significantly accelerates the testing process, especially for large test suites or when testing against multiple browser versions and configurations.

  1. Cross-Browser/Platform Testing

Playwright offers comprehensive testing support for various desktop and mobile browsers, including Chromium, Firefox, and WebKit, right out of the box. Its API hides browser-specific differences, making writing tests that run on any supported browser easy. Playwright’s ability to emulate devices, viewports, and network conditions allows comprehensive web application testing across platforms and scenarios, ensuring broad compatibility and a consistent user experience.

Selenium offers extensive cross-browser testing options and integration with various test frameworks. At the same time, Playwright emphasizes ease of use, native parallel testing support, and comprehensive cross-browser and cross-platform testing.

Advanced Features and Flexibility


  1. Customization and Extensibility

Selenium’s customization and extensibility make it ideal for many testing environments. Because of its modular design, Selenium WebDriver can have its functionality expanded by testers using unique wrappers or plugins, resulting in the development of customized testing solutions. Selenium can be integrated with Selenium Grid for distributed testing or third-party libraries for reporting and analytics.

  1. Integration with Other Tools and CI/CD Pipelines

Selenium works well with many development, testing, and deployment tools, making it ideal for CI/CD pipelines. Work with Jenkins, Travis CI, and CircleCI to add automated tests to build. This integration makes testing essential to the development lifecycle by detecting issues early.


  1. Auto-Wait Features and Network Interception

Playwright simplifies test script creation and execution through its auto-wait features, automatically waiting for elements to be ready before performing actions. This reduces flakiness and the need for manual wait statements.

Additionally, its network interception capabilities allow tests to mock network requests, test offline scenarios, or measure performance by controlling network traffic flow.

  1. Visual Regression Testing

Playwright supports visual regression testing out of the box, enabling teams to capture screenshots or videos of test runs and compare them against baseline images to detect UI changes or anomalies. This feature is crucial for ensuring that visual aspects of web applications remain consistent across updates.

  1. Mobile Emulation and Geolocation Testing

With Playwright, testing mobile versions of web applications is straightforward, thanks to its device emulation features. It can mimic various mobile devices, screen sizes, and resolutions, offering a realistic testing environment for mobile web browsers.

Furthermore, Playwright allows for geolocation testing, enabling the simulation of application behavior in different geographical locations, which is particularly useful for location-based services or applications.

Both Selenium and Playwright offer a range of advanced features and flexibility, with Selenium providing extensive customization options and integration capabilities. At the same time, Playwright brings modern testing features like auto-wait, network interception, visual regression testing, and comprehensive mobile and geolocation testing capabilities.

Performance and Scalability

Test execution speed, resource consumption, and test suite size affect Selenium and Playwright performance and scalability.

  1. Speed Comparison

Playwright is generally perceived to have an edge over Selenium regarding test execution speed. This advantage is partly due to Playwright’s more direct communication with browser engines and its auto-wait features, which reduce the need for manual delays or waits in test scripts. While highly efficient, Selenium may require additional setup and fine-tuning (e.g., explicit waits) to optimize test speed, especially when dealing with dynamic web elements.

  1. Scalability in Large Test Suites

Both frameworks are designed to scale with large test suites but approach scalability differently. Selenium Grid parallelizes tests across multiple machines and browsers, managing large-scale testing scenarios. Playwright’s built-in support for parallel testing in one or more browser instances simplifies scaling tests without Grid. Playwright’s native parallelism simplifies test scalability.

  1. Resource Consumption and Efficiency

Playwright tends to be more resource-efficient, primarily due to its ability to run tests in parallel within the same browser instance using browser contexts. This approach minimizes the overhead associated with launching and managing multiple browser instances.

Selenium Grid may use more resources to achieve parallelism by running multiple browser instances on different machines or containers.

Playwright may be faster and more resource-efficient than Selenium at handling large, complex test suites. However, framework familiarity, infrastructure, and project requirements should also be considered. For teams and organizations looking to enhance their web testing capabilities further, integrating with a cloud-based testing platform like LambdaTest can provide significant advantages.

LambdaTest offers a comprehensive testing solution that supports both Selenium and Playwright frameworks, enabling users to run automated tests across a vast array of browser and OS combinations. This integration simplifies the testing process and expands the scope of testing scenarios without the need for extensive in-house infrastructure.

Key Features of LambdaTest

  • Cross-Browser Compatibility Testing: LambdaTest provides access to over 3000+ real browsers and operating system environments, allowing teams to ensure their web applications perform flawlessly across all user segments.
  • Parallel Test Execution: With LambdaTest, you can significantly reduce your test execution time by running tests in parallel across different environments. This feature is crucial for agile teams looking to speed up their development cycles.
  • Seamless Integration: LambdaTest integrates effortlessly with popular CI/CD tools, project management tools, and notification channels, making it a versatile addition to any development workflow. This integration ensures that testing is a continuous and integrated part of the development process, facilitating the early detection of potential issues.
  • Real-Time Debugging: LambdaTest offers real-time debugging capabilities, allowing developers and testers to identify and fix issues as they occur. This immediate feedback loop is invaluable for maintaining high-quality web applications.


In comparing Selenium and Playwright for web automation testing, we have examined architecture, ease of use, test creation and execution, advanced features, and performance metrics.

Selenium is a robust, flexible solution that works with many programming languages, browsers, and testing ecosystems. Its extensive community support and adaptability make it a reliable choice for complex, large-scale web applications.

On the other hand, Playwright impresses with its modern approach, offering faster test execution, native support for parallel testing, and advanced features like auto-wait, network interception, and visual regression testing.

Both Selenium and Playwright are actively developed and supported, promising continued evolution to meet the demands of web application testing. Selenium’s upcoming enhancements aim to simplify cross-browser testing and integration capabilities further. Playwright is expected to continue innovating in performance optimization and testing capabilities for modern web applications.

As web technologies evolve, both frameworks will undoubtedly adapt, offering more powerful and efficient testing solutions to meet the future needs of web development.

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