The best open source web automation tools for 2022

George GkasdrogkasSeptember 16, 2022

Bonus: if you like our content and this “Open Source Web Scraping Tools” guide, you can join our web browser automation Slack community.

The rise of Open Source Software (OSS) in the last years, especially after the establishment of GitHub as the de-facto platform for open source projects, brought many great development tools and libraries to a broad audience of developers who now benefit from them daily. With so many existing options, however, how can we decide what best suits our needs?

There are so many repositories, that simply finding the best one for your project can be a large task. Trying different alternatives and then deciding which to use can work, but that’s time-consuming. In this article, we have taken care of the research for you! We will share some of the best Open Source libraries of 2022 for web automation and testing, based on specific criteria that guarantee a robust and productive development experience.

Web automation open source library

The methodology used to construct this list of open source web automation tools

Before we present the list of our top picks, let’s take some time to discuss the methodology that resulted in our choices. As mentioned, GitHub is the most extensive repository of open-source projects. It also provides excellent statistics regarding a project’s overall quality and social engagement that can aid our conclusions. To make the list a project we should meet as many of the following requirements as possible:

  • The project should be well maintained; the project’s maintainer(s) is/are responding to issues and integrating code contributions. In the best scenario, the project is actively developed as well, with maintainers regularly introducing new releases. 
  • Many active maintainers and collaborators work on the project.
  • The public API should be stable to prevent future versions from breaking changes. 
  • The repository should be well structured, with a clear branch hierarchy.
  • The git commits should be atomic, with descriptive messages and references to specific issues.
  • JavaScript projects should be published on NPM and retain many monthly downloads. This signifies that people trust and use the project in production environments.
  • The project should provide clear documentation on how to operate the corresponding library. 
  • Institutions and individuals back the project, which signifies the importance of the project to the overall ecosystem. 
  • All the features and mechanics are thoroughly tested. 
  • A Continuous Integration pipeline is established to automate the integration of code changes.

We used these requirements to guarantee that the selected libraries can operate in a production environment without issues. Keep in mind, however, that we will show libraries from various ecosystems like Node, Python, Ruby, Go, and C#. That being said, some ecosystems are more active in web automation than others. It is reasonable to assume that the engagement with some ecosystems will be more dynamic than in others. Still, there are significant and popular projects in every ecosystem.

The best open source web automation tools for 2022

Let’s start strong with one of the best JavaScript libraries for web automation.

Puppeteer

Puppeteer is a widespread Open Source web automation JavaScript library released in 2017. It counts more than 79K stars on GitHub and is actively maintained. At the time of this writing, close to 100 people have contributed to its codebase. The project was initially bootstrapped by the Chrome DevTools team and is backed by Google. The library can drive Chrome, Chromium (the open-source version of Chrome), or Firefox. It is distributed as an NPM package with more than 3.5 million monthly downloads

Puppeteer comes bundled with a Chromium browser, but in case we do not need a local browser instance, the puppeteer-core package provides all the functionalities without downloading the browser, resulting in reduced dependencies. 

Key features:

  • A Javascript web-automation library, created to be task agnostic. 
  • It is highly performant; the library communicates with the browser through a simple WebSocket client.
  • Google and many other contributors maintain it.
  • It can drive Chrome, Chromium-based browsers, and Firefox.
  • It gets more than 3.5 million downloads monthly.
  • It is actively developed, with new releases every couple of weeks.

It provides excellent documentation, and the community is strong, ensuring you will quickly get the answers to your problems.

Playwright

Playwright is another popular web automation library. Microsoft released it in 2020, and it is considered the spiritual successor to puppeteer (it started as its fork!). As a result, the API interface and the underlying design are very similar. Many of the original contributors of puppeteer moved to Microsoft and now support this new library. It counts more than 41K stars on GitHub and is actively developed.

Playwright can drive most modern browsers such as Chrome, Chromium-based browsers such as Edge, in addition to Firefox, and Safari (through Apple’s WebKit engine). A key selling point is that playwright provides official implementations on popular programming languages aside from Javascript (Node.js through NPM): Python, Java, and C#.

Key features:

  • A spiritual successor to puppeteer, with almost the same API.
  • Official implementations on popular programming languages like Javascript, Python, Java, and C#.
  • It allows cross-browser web automation testing.
  • Actively developed; backed by Microsoft.
  • More than 700K of monthly downloads on the NPM registry.
  • A solid choice for end-to-end testing with many great features like multiple tab support, performant test runs, and bidirectional events to communicate easily with the browser.
  • Enthusiastic community of talented contributors.

By the way, if you want to take a look at Playwright vs Puppeteer comparison, check out this article.

Selenium

Selenium was one of the first pioneers in the testing automation landscape. Originating in 2004 at ThoughtWorks in Chicago, it started as a small JavaScript program for testing web-based applications. Later it was open sourced, and nowadays it is an umbrella software for various tools and libraries that support browser automation. It is a powerhouse for web automation with a complete tool ecosystem that provides a rich development experience. It offers official implementations in many languages like Python, Java, C#, Ruby, and Javascript. For those who would like a more codeless experience, Selenium offers an IDE that allows anyone to quickly playback tests on the browser.

Key features:

  • Multi-browser support (Chrome, Safari, IE, Opera, Edge, and Firefox)
  • Multi-language support (Python, Java, C#, Ruby and Javascript) through WebDriver.
  • IDE that supports codeless test creations and execution.
  • Selenium Grid allows parallel test execution on multiple browsers, reducing time and increasing test efficiency.
  • Robust software with many years in commercial production environments.

The main project repository counts almost 25K GitHub stars.

Capybara

Here is an interesting one: Capybara. It is a web automation library for Ruby with over 150M downloads. The exciting part is its agnostic nature to the driver used to communicate with the underlying browser engine. It supports Selenium WebDriver, Webkit, Rack::Test (default), or other pure Ruby drivers. It counts nearly 10K stars on GitHub, and its release cycle is twice yearly. Despite lacking a more active release schedule, the community is very responsive to new issues and maintaining the project. At the time of this writing, more than 1000 issues have been successfully resolved, and only three are active. That shows the high engagement factor of the maintainers with the community. 

Key features:

  • It is a solid choice if your project relies on Ruby to run.
  • Driver-agnostic with support for Selenium WebDriver, WebKit, and pure Ruby drivers.
  • It pairs nicely with popular Ruby testing frameworks such as Cucumber, RSpec, Minitest, and the Rails ecosystem.
  • It is well maintained, with the maintainers actively engaging with the community.

It includes a development-friendly Domain Specific Language for interacting with the browser.

Rod

Let’s dive into the Go ecosystem. Rod is a high-level driver for DevTools Protocol, and it’s widely used for web automation and scraping. Rod can automate most things the browser can do manually, like capturing page screenshots, end-to-end testing, auto-fill forms, and any other case you can think of. It appeared in early 2020 and currently counts more than 85 releases, approximately one release per month. It hasn’t reached version 1.0, but it includes nearly everything you might want from a web automation library.

 Key features:

  • A full-featured web automation library for Golang.
  • Clean API and good documentation examples.
  • 100% test coverage through extensive CI pipelines to ensure robustness in production environments.
  • Nearly 3K stars on the main GitHub repository.

Actively developed with frequent releases.

Chromedp

The last entry comes again from the Golang ecosystem. Chromedp is a production-ready web scraping library that originated back in 2017. It utilizes the Chrome DevTools protocol (like Rod does) to offer a fast and straightforward way to drive the web browser. It exposes complete, low-level control over the browser while providing high-level API bindings. More than 2.1K projects use the library, which is actively developed.

Key features:

Bonus: web automation with browserless

If you are ready to dive into the world of web automation and take advantage of the various libraries we presented today, we can make setup easier by utilizing the free web automation platform, Browserless. Browserless provides free browser instances to connect to applications. This way, you do not have to spend time on further configurations, which would be necessary if going through setting up a local browser instance.
Browserless is an online headless automation platform that provides fast, scalable, reliable web browser automation, ideal for data analysis and web scraping. It’s open source with more than 4.9K stars on GitHub. Some of the largest companies worldwide use it daily for web automation tasks.

Open source web automation tool

The platform offers free plans, and paid plans if we need more powerful processing power. The free tier offers up to 6 hours of usage, which is more than enough for evaluating the platform capabilities or simple use cases.

Open source browser automation tool

After completing the registration process, the platform supplies us with an API key. We will use this key to access the Browserless services later on. All of the above libraries are supported by the platform. Head to the documentation page to learn how to get started today.

Free open source web automation tool

Conclusion

This “best open source web automation tools” article covered powerful open source web automation libraries for various programming languages like Node, C#, Java, Go, and Ruby. There are many other excellent libraries, but we believe these to be the best. If you want to learn more about how to get started with those libraries and Browserless, you can check out our other articles and be sure to subscribe for more educational content.

P.S.

If you like this article about open source web scraping tools, you can check out our best guides on this topic:

Share this article

Ready to try benefits of Browserless?