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Playwright vs Selenium: Which One to Choose

Hey there! Let me share my insider knowledge to help you choose between Playwright and Selenium for web scraping. With over 10 years of experience extracting data, I‘ve become quite familiar with both these excellent frameworks.

Selenium first came on the scene in 2004 as an internal test tool at ThoughtWorks. Since then, it has exploded in popularity as the leading web automation framework. Playwright, on the other hand, is younger – first released in 2019 by Microsoft as a more streamlined tool optimized for modern web apps.

Both are open-source tools that allow controlling a browser programatically for tasks like testing and scraping. They also support headless browsing which is a game-changer for scraping dynamic JavaScript-heavy sites.

Let me expand on that…

Headless Browsing – The Secret Scraping Weapon

Remember the early 2000s when websites were mostly simple static HTML? Scraping them was a breeze. But fast forward to today, and many sites are dynamic web apps running on JavaScript. Content gets loaded asynchronously, infinite scrolling pops up, user-state affects what you see.

This gives scrapers a headache!

Luckily, Playwright and Selenium provide headless browser capabilities to tame dynamic sites. Headless means they can render and execute pages by simulating browser actions in the background without any visible UI.

For example, here are some common dynamic features they can handle with ease:

  • AJAX-powered content
  • Infinite scrolls
  • React/Angular/Vue apps
  • User logins and forms
  • Browser state/cookies

I recently used Playwright to scrape an Instagram profile with endless scrolling that no traditional scraper could handle!

So if you need to extract data from a complex site, headless browsers are invaluable. Both Playwright and Selenium make them accessible. Now let‘s see how they compare.

Playwright vs Selenium: Key Differences

Both tools can drive browsers headlessly, but have some core differences:

Browser Support

Playwright has built-in support for Chromium, Firefox and WebKit. You don‘t need to install any additional drivers.

Selenium supports a wider range of browsers like Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Safari, IE and more. But you need to install specific WebDriver binaries for each one before use.

Here‘s a quick compatibility table:

Google Chrome
Mozilla Firefox
MS Edge
Apple Safari

So Selenium gives you more browser options, while Playwright offers easier out-of-the-box use.

Languages Supported

Playwright has native APIs for JavaScript, Python, C# and Java.

Selenium has native support for Java, Python, C#, JavaScript and more. You can also use language bindings to utilize Selenium with Ruby, PHP, Go and others.

Selenium definitely provides more language flexibility. But Playwright‘s native options are highly optimized.


Playwright uses a modern event-driven architecture that can handle asynchronous actions very efficiently.

Selenium WebDriver communicates via JSON Wire Protocol which can introduce latency. Selenium RC (remote control) is older and slower.

So Playwright has a speed advantage, especially when scraping large amounts of data.

Community and Resources

Given Selenium‘s longevity, it has an enormous community of users and resources available:

Playwright is newer so online resources are still maturing. But adoption is rapidly growing.

Making the Right Choice

With this overview, which tool should you choose? Here are my recommendations:

  • Playwright – for smaller projects where simplicity and speed are critical. Limiting browser needs is fine.
  • Selenium – for extremely large projects requiring distributed scraping. Browser flexibility is mandatory.

There are always exceptions of course! If you must scrape Safari or IE pages, Selenium is the only option currently.

I‘d suggest prototyping with both frameworks to see which fits your use case better. And you can consider alternatives like Puppeteer, WebDriverIO or Cypress too.

Feel free to reach out if you have any other questions! I love discussing the ins and outs of Playwright, Selenium and scraping dynamic JavaScript sites.

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