PINGDOM_CHECK
Karlo Jedud
5 mins
July 10, 2024

Puppeteer vs. Selenium for web scraping

In today's world, web scraping tools save thousands of hours of work by automating data extraction, testing web applications and performing repetitive tasks.


Two examples of web scraping tools are Puppeteer and Selenium. In this blog, we will explore their features and how they can be used for web scraping and browser automation.


Puppeteer is a Node.js-based API that interacts with Chrome (or Chromium). It offers capabilities such as browser management, page interactions, JavaScript execution, and network logging.


Selenium, on the other hand, supports development in multiple programming languages including Java, Python, C#, Ruby, JavaScript, and Kotlin. It provides an integrated development environment (IDE) for Chrome and Firefox and supports automation for various other browsers.



Overview of Puppeteer


Puppeteer is a Node.js library for controlling Chrome or Chromium browsers. It offers robust features including the ability to render JavaScript, capture screenshots, generate PDFs, and manage browser cookies and sessions. Puppeteer is especially effective for scraping dynamic content from JavaScript-heavy websites and automating end-to-end testing scenarios. Its headless mode increases speed and reduces resource consumption by running tasks without a graphical user interface. Making it an excellent choice for developers looking to extract data efficiently.


Web scraping features and capabilities 


One of Puppeteer's major advantages is its ability to render JavaScript. Unlike a regular HTTP request (e.g. cURL), Puppeteer can load and execute JavaScript, allowing you to scrape content that appears only after the page has fully loaded and executed its scripts. This is crucial for scraping modern web applications that heavily rely on JavaScript.


Preloaded page interaction


Puppeteer allows interaction with web pages before scraping. You can click buttons, wait for elements to load and type into search boxes. This interaction capability is essential for use cases where scraping requires navigation through multiple steps, filling out forms, or interacting with dynamically loaded content.


SlowMo mode


Puppeteer offers more advanced features such as “SlowMo”, which allows a time in milliseconds to pass within code, this could be used for debugging or things such as waiting for Page elements to load correctly before they are interacted with. For example, puppeteer.launch({ slowMo: 50 }) slows down Puppeteer operations by 50 milliseconds.


Users can choose to visually follow the script's actions in real-time and these commands can ensure elements are fully loaded before interaction if and where this is necessary however when scraping this 


In headless mode, SlowMo can also help mimic human-like behaviour, potentially avoiding anti-bot mechanisms that detect rapid, automated interactions. By slowing down the script, SlowMo enhances the accuracy and reliability of the scraping process, making it particularly effective for dynamic websites and complex sequential actions.


Headless mode


One big advantage that Puppeteer offers is a mode wherein tasks can be run without the need for the GUI of a browser in its “Headless” mode, this reduces the processing power needed and increases processing speed — proving to be an especially efficient option in specific cases, scaling amazingly with larger server-side projects  Additionally, headless mode can help avoid certain bot detection mechanisms that rely on graphical elements.


This would be a more complex mode to learn and utilise and thus would be more difficult to debug. There are also features that cannot be used in this mode and there is less support or compatibility issues from browsers when using this feature.


This feature is imperative to scraping projects and you would never run a scraping project without it.


Additional features


Puppeteer supports some additional features such as the ability to take screenshots, similar to what is seen in the popular Python library PythonAutoGui and PDF Generation using methods like page.screenshot() and page.pdf(). These features are useful for creating visual documentation, monitoring website appearance and archiving content.


File Management capabilities for scraping tasks that involve interacting with files. as well as the ability to interact with browser cookies. For example, reading them with  Page.cookies().


Puppeteer supports the use of Chrome extensions, although this is limited to non-headless mode. This feature allows for extended browser capabilities during automation tasks.


Use cases in various web scraping scenarios


Puppeteer excels at scraping data from dynamic websites that rely heavily on JavaScript. Its ability to render and interact with JavaScript makes it ideal for extracting information from modern web applications.


Pros


  • Helps with complex interactions

  • Helps solve bans

  • Stealth-mode plugins available

  • Well maintained

  • Good community support

  • Low barrier to getting started

  • Headless mode

  • Cross platform


Cons:


  • Expensive as a scraping solution

  • Easy to spot for good anti-bot tech

  • Requires hosting and integration into scraping code

  • Will likely need proxies to access anti-bot protected sites

  • Limited browser support

  • Steep learning curve


Overview of Selenium


Selenium is a suite of tools designed for browser automation and testing. It includes, but is not limited to, Selenium WebDriver, Selenium Grid, and Selenium IDE, each providing a range of features and functionalities that make it a powerful choice for developers engaged in web scraping.


Web scraping features and capabilities


Selenium is not a single tool or API but a bundle of different ones with various features and functions including different web drivers constantly updated to the latest browser versions that allow for testing that is non-intrusive and similar to the way a human would go about testing and scraping. This helps to provide reliable results knowing the setting will behave the same as when used by a human.



IDE


Selenium has a custom IDE which primarily is used for Chrome and Firefox development. This makes the process of developing and debugging for these platforms much more efficient.


Parallel testing


Selenium offers its “Grid” system which allows for testing across multiple machines and browsers in parallel from a remote hub. This leverages each machine's computational ability and allows for a highly scalable operation.


This means that multiple web scraping tasks can be executed simultaneously across different browsers and machines. This can significantly speed up the scraping process,  resulting in more efficiency and being capable of handling larger volumes of data.



Waits


There are many different choices for waits in code depending on necessity from being able to import libraries such as time to the inbuilt Selenium Implicit and Explicit waits which can be used to wait for a specified time or can loop while waiting for given Web elements. The explicit waits can also be customised to include polling intervals and ignore more specific exceptions.


DOM interactions


Many different tools are provided to locate and interact with elements on the page. When facing difficulty locating an element using one method, there are multiple more to use to ensure the project can continue here are eight different basic methods supported). Once located Selenium has more built-in features such as Click, SendKeys, Clear and one called Text which returns the text content of a given element which is highly practical and easy to use.


Additional features


Selenium supports features such as being able to work with colours on a page, select options from lists and imitate input from keyboard, mouse scroll wheel and pen style peripherals. Selenium can also handle file uploads and return lots of different information about selected elements.


Use cases in various web scraping scenarios


Selenium's ability to interact with dynamic, JavaScript-heavy web pages makes it a powerful tool for web scraping. It can perform complex interactions that simpler tools cannot handle. In addition its commands for doing such are simple to pick up and utilise.


Automated regression testing


Selenium is widely used for automated regression testing, ensuring that new code changes do not negatively impact existing functionality. This helps maintain the stability and quality of software. This could normally be laborious and require many human hours.


Pros:


  • Cross-browser compatibility

  • Multiple language support

  • Parallel testing with Selenium Grid

  • Extensive community and documentation

  • Custom IDE

  • Integration with other tools and frameworks


Cons:


  • Complex setup and configuration

  • Higher resource consumption

  • Steeper learning curve

  • Maintenance overhead

  • Limited support for modern web features

  • Reliance on external dependencies

  • Difficulty in handling certain interactions


Comparison of Puppeteer and Selenium


These are both powerful tools capable of automating, testing and scraping the web. They each have their respective strengths and drawbacks and different situations call for their appropriate respective use.



Use Puppeteer:


  • If the subject website is considered JavaScript-heavy

  • If the task has an emphasis and speed and efficiency If the environment is already based in Node.JS

  • If low setup speed is imperative


Use Selenium:


  • Cross browser and cross language, Selenium boasts the support of many languages and browsers.

  • Complex scale projects, Selenium's Grid parallel testing capabilities make it suitable for large-scale, complex testing environments.


Puppeteer performance


Generally faster due to its headless mode and direct control over Chrome/Chromium, Puppeteer excels in speed and resource efficiency, consuming fewer resources than running a full browser GUI. It handles JavaScript-heavy pages exceptionally well, making it ideal for modern web applications.


Selenium performance


Selenium can be slower, particularly when using full browser environments and has higher resource consumption. It may struggle with JavaScript-heavy pages compared to Puppeteer, which can impact performance in dynamic web environments.



Puppeteer ease of use


Puppeteer is designed with a straightforward API for Node.js, making it easy to use for developers familiar with JavaScript. While it requires knowledge of Node.js and JavaScript, it offers a simpler setup process for those environments.


Selenium ease of use


Selenium supports multiple programming languages, providing versatility but potentially adding complexity. Its setup process can be more involved, especially when configuring Selenium Grid for cross-browser compatibility. However, the Selenium IDE simplifies the creation and debugging of test cases, enhancing ease of use for Chrome and Firefox development. In addition, controlling pages that are already open and set to a point by the user requires additional complexity and the command prompt to open specific instances of browsers.


Zyte API headless browser as solution for web scraping


Zyte API is an all in one comprehensive API which features proxy management, multiple language support and easy to implement data extraction It also has the ability to easily capture screenshots, manage sessions and cookies. Zyte API provides a reliable and scalable solution aimed at developers and businesses while ensuring compliance with web scraping best practices.


Unlike Puppeteer and Selenium, which are versatile browser automation tools used for a range of tasks including QA testing. Zyte API is fully hosted and focuses on web scraping. Puppeteer and Selenium require local or server setup and offer extensive control over browser interactions, making them suitable for various automation tasks. In contrast, Zyte API manages all backend infrastructure, offering an easy-to-implement solution for developers and businesses without the need for extensive setup or maintenance.


Features and ease of use


Zyte API offers advanced data extraction capabilities, allowing users to scrape structured and unstructured data from web pages efficiently. It supports complex data extraction scenarios, including handling JavaScript-rendered content.


User interface


The smart, user-friendly interface removes the complex setups for other tools for tasks. Using the Zyte dashboard or API endpoints, making it accessible even for those with limited knowledge or experience.


Compliance and ethics


Zyte values ethical web scraping practices, providing tools and guidance to ensure that scraping activities comply with legal and ethical standards. 


Scalability


Zyte has been designed with small scaling to large projects in mind. It is robust enough to process these even while under high load.


Smart proxy management


Particularly lending itself to large scale projects, in which anti-bot detection will pick up on automated activities and block users, Zyte has a unique solution to this issue in its smart proxy management feature. Zyte API manages the different proxies and browsers and selects the leanest configuration for the websites you need to access. Automate solving bans and put proxy management in the past.


Specialised strategy


Zyte offers specialised data solutions for business, real estate and job listing tasks and can pull data for these purposes with giver prerequisites such as a geographic location or keyword. It can pull data  on varied, dynamic and more challenging websites easily.


Prompt data delivery


Zyte offers data delivered by using programmers and experts in law and compliance which could be more appropriate for larger scale operations needs.


Which one to choose?


When choosing between these and other automation tools, there are several critical KPIs to consider depending on your project’s specific needs, below are some but not all of the needs that will be taken into account.


Language and browser support


Supporting languages more familiar to developers and browsers likely to be utilised in is key. In not doing so, developers would have to use precious time learning and adapting to new languages, and as happens with newer learned languages bugs and errors are a greater and more common factor. 


Zyte API


Offers robust support for various programming languages and browsers, making it a flexible choice for teams with diverse technological stacks. In addition, it can handle a variety of web scraping tasks across different websites without being tied to specific browsers, offering flexibility and ease of integration into different environments.


Puppeteer


Exclusively supports Chromium browsers and Node.JS, whilst there are a couple of different integrations available it still falls short of the compatibility offered by others.


Selenium


Offers many languages and lots of browsers, while lesser used browsers will require some configuration and GIT file experimentation. Selenium will win out in common circumstances where it supports platforms others do not.


Community support and documentation


In a field as specialised as this, particularly for newcomers but even for seasoned developers, the community support and documentation can make a world of difference for deploying web automation tools it aids.


Zyte API


Supported by a professional team with comprehensive documentation, Zyte provides customer support and resources to help users get the most out of their scraping projects.


Puppeteer


Backed by Google, Puppeteer has a growing community with extensive documentation and active forums. However, it is relatively newer compared to Selenium. The possible integrations to Angular and Docker may prove invaluable in the future for its continued growth.


Selenium


Has a large, established community with a wealth of resources, tutorials, and third-party libraries. The extensive community support can be invaluable for troubleshooting and learning. Even the introduction to starting a first selenium script on its own website is very well refined and easy to use, similar to industry standard set by websites such as W3Schools.


Scalability and Maintenance


Any tool considered would have to be able to scale accordingly to the size or growth potential of the project and be sufficiently and reasonably maintainable for the duration to future proofthe task.


Zyte API


Designed for scalability, Zyte API can manage both small and large-scale scraping projects with features like smart proxy management to handle high loads and avoid IP bans. Zyte provides a managed solution that reduces the maintenance burden on developers by the potential to outsource all of the issues to professionals. With features like automatic proxy rotation and built-in compliance tools, Zyte API simplifies ongoing maintenance tasks and can take it out of the hands of devs. 


Puppeteer


Puppeteer can efficiently handle large-scale scraping and automation tasks, especially when running in headless mode on server environments. Its performance and speed are significant advantages for scalable operations. Its easier to maintain for projects that use Node.js and require rapid development cycles. Its simpler API can reduce the overhead of managing complex test suites.


Selenium


Selenium Grid allows for parallel test execution across multiple machines and browsers, making it highly scalable for large testing environments. This feature is particularly useful for mid to enterprise-level applications although it requires more maintenance effort due to its broader compatibility and extensive feature set. However, its support for multiple languages and browsers can justify the additional effort for these larger, more complex projects.


Conclusion


In this article, we explored the strengths and weaknesses of three prominent automation tools: Puppeteer, Selenium, and Zyte API. 


Puppeteer, with its seamless integration into JavaScript/Node.js environments, excels in handling JavaScript-heavy tasks and offers impressive performance and speed, especially in headless mode.


Selenium stands out for its versatility and community grounding, supporting multiple programming languages and browsers and is ideal for cross-browser testing and complex projects requiring parallel execution.


Zyte API offers a robust, scalable, and maintenance-friendly solution, providing professional support and simplifying data extraction tasks, making it perfect for businesses or professionals seeking a comprehensive web scraping service with AI integration and full compliance.


When choosing the right automation tool, consider your project’s specific requirements, including language and browser support, community support, scalability and maintenance. Puppeteer is best suited for projects centred around JavaScript/Node.js, Selenium for mixed-language environments and extensive cross-browser testing, and Zyte API for flexible, scalable, and low-maintenance data extraction needs. Staying updated with advancements in automation technology is crucial to leveraging the most effective tools and practices, ensuring your web scraping and automation tasks are efficient, reliable, and future-proof.