End-to-end testing for modern browsers with high-level API control has come a long way. Most things that a user can do manually can also be done with certain apps. Two tools, Playwright and Puppeteer, are often pitted against each when it comes to web automation.
Let’s entangle the differences and similarities one by one to see how Playwright vs Puppeteer stack up in particular scenarios, including web scraping.
Playwright and Puppeteer are both Node.js libraries used to control headless browsers for web testing and browser automation. The two solutions are much more alike than they’re different, although there are some crucial distinctions.
Playwright, developed by Microsoft, has cross-language and cross-browser support with both asynchronous and synchronous client implementations.
Puppeteer, developed by Google, has a strong implementation of Chrome DevTools Protocol that provides a user-friendly API to drive Chromium-based environments.
Looking back, the Chrome developers team created Puppeteer in 2017 to make up for Selenium's unreliability in browser automation. Soon after, the top two Puppeteer developers switched sides and moved from Google to Microsoft to work on a new solution – Playwright. The result – the two are very similar in many regards, from API methods and automation to web scraping.
User downloads in 2022, npm trends
Naturally, Playwright is much newer – released in January 2020. As evident from the graph above, Puppeteer is a more popular option as of January 2023.
Web scraping is an automated process to extract data from websites. In terms of core functionality, both libraries have similar web scraping capabilities. Both can automate web page interactions, such as clicking on buttons, filling out forms, or scrolling through pages, and ultimately extract target data.
Even though both Playwright and Puppeteer use actual browsers, it's still possible to determine whether it's controlled by a real user or automated by an automation toolkit.
A frequent issue with web scraping is bot detection resulting in blocking from websites. It usually happens when the user (or an automated app) clicks several buttons rapidly and, as a result, sends an unreasonable amount of requests to the host server. Setting breaks between sequential activities is one of the solutions to avoid blocks.
Worth noting is Playwright’s auto-waiting function. It imitates a (human) user by waiting a certain amount of time after filling out a login form and before clicking a button. Puppeteer lacks convenience in this regard, as you would have set up timers manually using, for example, the Page.waitForSelector() method. However, multiple timers have the drawback of slowing down your browsing, and some websites can still detect them.
Naturally, both Playwright and Puppeteer standalone risk being blocked when web scraping. In turn, both can be integrated with a plethora of auxiliary tools. For interruption-free data collection, third-party services, such as proxies or AI-based solutions, are required to bypass CAPTCHAs by using advanced browser fingerprinting.
Playwright supports asynchronous clients for additional performance scaling and synchronous clients for simple script convenience, whereas Puppeteer only supports asynchronous clients. In Playwright, you can write small scrapers using a synchronous client and scale up simply by switching to a more complex asynchronous architecture.
One of the Playwright’s major advantages, cross-browser support, also shines in web scraping. If you're working on a project that requires scraping data from multiple browsers, Playwright would have to be your choice.
Rather than specializing in web testing, Puppeteer describes itself as a general-purpose browser automation client - which is good news as web scraping issues receive official support (take a look at our Puppeteer web scraping tutorial). However, considering the sheer amount of supplementary features, Playwright has a slight edge in functionality when it comes to web scraping.
Take a look at the main differences between the two tools in the table below. Language, browser, and community support, along with documentation, are the major diverging features.
|Supported platforms||Windows, Linux, and macOS||Windows, Linux, and macOS|
|Browser support||Chrome/Chromium, Firefox, WebKit||Chrome/Chromium (experimental support for Firefox and Edge)|
|Client||Asynchronous and synchronous||Asynchronous|
|Mode configuration||Headful and headless mode||Headful and headless mode|
|Community support||Limited – small but active community||Extensive|
|GitHub stats (January 2023)||2.3K forks, 46.5K stars||8.8K forks, 81.5K stars|
Playwright’s biggest difference (and advantage) compared to Puppeteer is its cross-browser support and, in turn, cross-browser testing with device emulation out of the box. It can drive Chrome/Chromium, WebKit (the browser engine for Safari), and Firefox. For example, Playwright is great for testing iOS because of WebKit. Meanwhile, Puppeteer is only compatible with Chrome/Chromium, while support for Firefox/Edge is experimental.
Playwright has access to the latest browser features and technologies. It uses patched browser versions (multi-version support), which allows you to test a code against different versions of the browsers. On the other hand, it may make it harder for maintenance, and there might be breaking changes in the future because of it.
Additionally, Playwright has multi-context browsing for work with multiple pages or iframes at the same time and supports browser extensions.
In comparison, Puppeteer is somewhat behind in browser capabilities. However, one of the Puppeteer’s biggest advantages is support from the Chrome team – the same developers that upkeep the most popular browser in the world.
Playwright is relatively new compared to Puppeteer, so the community support and available resources aren’t as extensive as Puppeteer’s.
Overall, Puppeteer and Playwright are both powerful libraries for automation. Still, Playwright's support for multiple browsers, cross-language support, and other additional features make it a more robust general-use solution for web automation, including web scraping.
However, if you're working on a project that requires extensive peer guidance, you’re using Chrome only, or you have a limited time frame to finish, Puppeteer might be a better choice, given its established community, excellent documentation, and more mature ecosystem.
On the other hand, if you already have developers familiar with one tool on board, it wouldn't be rational resource-wise to migrate to the other, no matter the advantages. Pre-existing familiarity plays a major role in decision-making when it comes to Playwright vs Puppeteer.
Is Puppeteer the same as Playwright?
No. Both are Node.js libraries for automating web browsers, but they have different APIs and were developed by different companies. Puppeteer is developed by Google and is based on the Chrome DevTools protocol, with the Chrome team behind it, while Playwright is developed by Microsoft and has cross-language and cross-browser support.
Which is better: Playwright or Puppeteer?
Both libraries have large communities and good documentation, so it's often a matter of personal preference, depending on browser or language support and other factors. However, Playwright has a slight edge in selected functionalities, such as synchronous and asynchronous clients, for ease of scaling.
Puppeteer can be a better option if you require considerable peer support, use only Chrome, or have a tight schedule. All that is due to its established community and more developed environment.
About the author
Augustas Pelakauskas is a Senior Copywriter at Oxylabs. Coming from an artistic background, he is deeply invested in various creative ventures - the most recent one being writing. After testing his abilities in the field of freelance journalism, he transitioned to tech content creation. When at ease, he enjoys sunny outdoors and active recreation. As it turns out, his bicycle is his fourth best friend.
All information on Oxylabs Blog is provided on an "as is" basis and for informational purposes only. We make no representation and disclaim all liability with respect to your use of any information contained on Oxylabs Blog or any third-party websites that may be linked therein. Before engaging in scraping activities of any kind you should consult your legal advisors and carefully read the particular website's terms of service or receive a scraping license.
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