What is WebDriver in Selenium?

Owen Savage

Automation Expert

What is WebDriver in Selenium? How does it work? What are its benefits and limitations? This article will provide a short introduction to Selenium WebDriver and give you the opportunity to learn more. 

Skip to: 

What is Selenium? 

What is Selenium WebDriver? 

How does it work? 

The pros of Selenium WebDriver 

The cons of Selenium WebDriver 

What is Selenium? 

A lot of software testing is done manually, but there is a continuing trend toward test automation. That’s because QA testing done manually is slow and repetitive, not to mention it’s prone to human error.

Selenium is one way of automating the testing process. 

Read more: What is the difference between manual and automation testing? 

Selenium is an open-source framework for software testing that allows you to validate web applications across different browsers and platforms. 

Using it, you can use multiple programming languages—like Java, C#, and Python—to check if your web applications are working correctly. 

It’s essentially a tool that automates checking for broken software. Considering that if it is broken then you could be at risk of losing brand reputation and revenue, that’s pretty important. 

Selenium isn’t just one thing, it’s a suite of tools that help you automate web testing via a web browser. One of these is Selenium WebDriver. Let’s explain what it is and what it does.

What is Selenium WebDriver?

A WebDriver is a browser automation framework. It accepts commands and sends them to a browser. 

WebDriver in Selenium was created by Simon Stewart in 2006. It was the first cross-platform testing framework that could control the browser from the level of the operating system. 

Selenium WebDriver is a programming interface that can be used to create and execute test cases. It allows you to test across all major programming languages, browsers, and operating systems.

It can run across different platforms and because it is made up of different language bindings: it allows you to code in different languages. 

How does it work? 

Think of a WebDriver as a mediator, something that allows two things to interact. Imagine there are two people who cannot speak the same language. One of them has interesting and useful things to say, but can’t get their point across. In that case, you need an interpreter. 

Selenium WebDriver acts as such an interpreter. It allows your code to communicate with different browser drivers. 

When you use Selenium to run tests, the test cases are created using element locators. You locate your elements using a Selenium element locator technique. Using WebDriver, you can then perform actions on those elements. 

The pros of Selenium WebDriver 

There’s no denying that Selenium WebDriver is one of the most popular open-source tools and it’s relatively easy to get started with (providing you can code). Compared with the previous Selenium RC, WebDriver also uses more straightforward commands. Its simple architecture means that executing tests is faster. 

Again, the key difference with Selenium WebDriver—as opposed to the depreciated Selenium RC—is that it interacts directly with the browser. This makes the process of automating and running tests much quicker. 

The cons of Selenium WebDriver 

Part of the difficulties of using Selenium WebDriver come from trying to generate test results. It doesn’t have a built-in command for automating them. Because it doesn’t generate test results on its own, it’s difficult to find out how many of your tests have failed. It’s also time-consuming…

Selenium WebDriver may be simpler than previous versions in Selenium, but it still requires you to code. Your QA team will be reliant on developers who know how to use Selenium but aren’t necessarily familiar with your wider business processes. 

If you want to know more about no-code alternatives to Selenium, we’ve written a blog post about just that: 

Codeless Selenium: How to Automate with Selenium without Coding

Finally, Selenium WebDriver takes time to set up and maintain, and it requires third-party integrations to carry out many testing processes. 

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