What is Selenium WebDriver? An Easy Guide in 3 Points


This is likely the first time you are coming into contact with the word ‘selenium.’ Before getting into what is selenium WebDriver, let us first understand what the word selenium means. When you log in to your computer and start using any browser, you will notice that you are successfully signed in to the latest versions of Chrome, Mozilla Firefox on Windows 7. This registering is done by Selenium WebDriver.

Numerous hours are spent on manually testing a web app to make sure it is functioning smoothly. Before selenium it the testing time would range from days to a couple of weeks to run its course. This is the basic reason why Selenium is becoming more popular and an integral part of our lives nowadays. Selenium is an open-source instrument that is used for automating web browsers. It provides a single boundary ensuring that test scripts are written in programming languages like Ruby, Java, PHP, Perl, Node JS, C#, Python, etc.

In this article let us look at:

  1. What is Selenium WebDriver?
  2. Difference between Selenium RC and WebDriver
  3. Limitations of WebDriver

1. What is selenium WebDriver?

Selenium Web Driver is an open-source collection of Application programming interfaces that tests automated web applications. The application programming interface is software that allows two or more applications to communicate with each other. Every time you check someone’s status on an app or ask google any questions, you are using the Application programming interface. The tool of Selenium WebDriver ensures the efficient functioning of an automated web application to check if it works as expected or not. Selenium WebDriver tool supports browsers like Safari, Chrome, Firefox, and internet explorer.

You can also execute cross-browser testing using the Selenium WebDriver tool. Your test scripts require you to make use of a programming language that selenium WebDriver allows you to use. Be it conditional operations or looping Selenium WebDriver ensures smooth operations. Now that we have understood what is selenium WebDriver let us see how Selenium RC differs from WebDriver. 

2. Difference between Selenium RC and WebDriver

The selenium WebDriver was only introduced in 2006, before the advent of WebDriver in 2006, another automation tool called Selenium RC. Selenium RC stands for Selenium remote control. Both the tools possess some similar features, like allowing you to use a programming language in designing your test scripts and run your tests against multiple browsers. Let us see how they differ:

  • Architecture: The architecture of Selenium RC is more complicated when compared to Selenium WebDriver. WebDriver controls the browser by the OS level, and all you require is a strong hand on programming languages to get it functioning. Selenium RC first requires you to launch a separate server called Selenium Remote control server; only then can you start testing. The server of Selenium RC acts as a middleman between your browser and the commands you give. A program called JavaScript Programme is injected into the browser once you get it to testing. Once it gets injected, you will start receiving a bunch of instructions from the RC server from your test program. The instructions, when received, will be executed as JavaScript Commands. 
  • Speed: In terms of speed to WebDriver takes the lead. WebDriver is faster than Selenium RC since it speaks directly to the browser in addition to using the browser’s engine to get it in control. Selenium RC uses a JavaScript program called Selenium core and is slower. Selenium core directly controls the browser.
  • Real-life interaction: Selenium WebDriver is more realistic and interacts with the page rudiments in a more real way. For example, WebDriver cannot enter any value in a disabled text box, just as a real person cannot. Selenium core, on the other hand, can access disabled elements just like other JavaScript codes. 
  • Automated process interface: Selenium RC’s automated process interface though being more mature, often contains confusing commands and redundancies. For example, the server often confuses users relating to using type keys or click. To make matters worse, each of these commands is interpreted by different browsers in different ways. WebDriver’s automated process interface is way simpler and does not contain confusing and redundant commands. 
  • Browser support: Headless Html Unit browser is supported by WebDriver. It is a very smooth functioning and fast browser and takes very less time for its page elements to load. Your test execution cycles are accelerated due to this. On the other hand, Selenium RC cannot support the Html Unit browser.

3. Limitations of WebDriver 

Though WebDriver presents you with a ton of advantages, one cannot forget the limitations that adhere to while using it. Limitations of Selenium are less but not non-existent. One of the major disadvantages of Selenium WebDriver is that new browsers are not readily supported by it. WebDriver operates on an OS level, and different browsers interact with the OS in various ways. When a new browser is started, it will have its own way of communicating with the OS, which will differ from the other browsers. So the WebDriver team will need some time to figure out the new process before implementing it on the next WebDriver Release.

However, it is the team’s choice to decide whether to take up and support the new browser or not.  Another disadvantage of Selenium WebDriver is its inability of a built-in command to automatically generate a test result file. You will need to rely on the output window of IDE, or you yourself will have to design the report using your skills in programming languages and get it stored as HTML or text.


To sum it up, Selenium WebDriver tests web applications by using different programming languages across different browsers. You can choose a programming language of your choice to be able to make powerful tests. WebDriver essentially provides more advantages than Selenium RC and is also faster with a simpler architecture. The only limitations of WebDriver are that it cannot support new browsers, nor does it have a built-in command for generating automatic test results. After reading the above article, we hope that you have a complete idea about the Selenium concepts, what is selenium RC, and more importantly, what is Selenium WebDriver.

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