Selenium vs RPA: Key Differences

Technological advancements continue to grow at a rapid pace. The expansion of automation in every possible domain has added fuel to the fire of these advancements. From simple unit tests to the most complex business processes, automation has become the name of the game. Technologies like Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Selenium are at the forefront of this transformation, though in different domains.

Now, the question of “Selenium vs RPA comes up often in testing circles, even though RPA is not used as a testing tool. This article discusses the niches in which Selenium and RPA operate, so that readers achieve clarity on why a comparison between them should not be made. It also explains how both tools differ in terms of offerings, economic feasibility, skill sets required, etc.

Let’s begin with Selenium.

What is Selenium?

Selenium refers to a suite of tools widely used by QA engineers across the globe when it comes to automated cross-browser testing. Web-developers need to thoroughly test their websites for cross-browser compatibility. Doing so ensures that the web app delivers optimal user experiences for users accessing the internet from different browsers like Chrome, Firefox, Safari, etc.

How does Selenium work?

QAs use Selenium WebDriver for creating automated test cases. It is compatible with a massive number of programming languages like Java, Python, Ruby, etc. This provides developers or QAs the flexibility to code in their preferred language.

The Selenium testing architecture comprises four main components:

  1. Client libraries / Language bindings for creating test scripts in various programming languages
  2. JSON Wire Protocol for communication between client and server
  3. Browser Specific Drivers for controlling specific browsers
  4. Any target browser like Chrome, Firefox, etc

When a test script is executed, the following tasks are performed in the background:

  1. Every line of code is transformed into a URL. The JSON Wire protocol over HTTP makes this possible
  2. The URL generated is passed to the browser-specific drivers
  3. To receive HTTP requests, every Browser Driver uses an HTTP server. Once the browser driver receives the URL, it processes the request by passing it to the real browser over HTTP — thus executing the Selenium test

Refer to this detailed guidepost on Selenium WebDriver to learn more about its architecture.

Key Benefits of Selenium:

  1. Supports automation of leading browsers like Chrome, Firefox, Safari, etc.
  2. Provides compatibility with multiple operating systems like Windows, Linux, and Mac.
  3. As Selenium provides various language bindings, developers or QAs can choose the programming language they are most comfortable with for creating test cases
  4. Selenium is open source and carries firm community support

Now, both Selenium and RPA facilitate automation with the intent of reducing manual intervention and delivering consistent quality. This is probably why QA engineers find themselves considering a comparison between the two.

Unfortunately, this comparison is fruitless. QAs must bear in mind that Selenium as a test automation tool focuses on automating test cases to verify the efficacy of websites. RPA, on the other hand, focuses on the automation of specific processes that are repetitive and tedious (data entry tasks, for example).

For a deeper understanding of how RPA differs from Selenium, let’s dive deeper into the former.

What is RPA?

As mentioned earlier, RPA stands for Robotic Process Automation. RPA refers to business automation technology used to automate repetitive and time-consuming tasks. Performing tasks like data entry, analyzing, or calculating data can be very tedious and time-consuming. After a point, performing the same tasks manually leads to error and inefficiency.

RPA helps address this issue by allowing businesses to automate such repetitive tasks by creating software bots. These bots perform the desired tasks accurately by interacting with the system, just like a human being would.

How does RPA work?

RPA uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to replace manual action and perform high volume tasks that are either rule-based or trigger driven. RPA technology doesn’t replace humans. It focuses on deploying software bots over the existing IT infrastructure to automate required tasks.

RPA-enabled tools allow organizations to configure specific workflows for automating business operations. Blue Prism, UiPath, and Automation Anywhere are leading companies that provide RPA services to organizations.

Applications of RPA

RPA is majorly used in service-oriented organizations where specific day to day tasks are repetitive in nature. At a high level, RPA is used for automating tasks in the following domains:

  1. Customer Service
  2. Supply Chain Management
  3. Health Care
  4. Human Resources
  5. Accounting
  6. Financial Services

Key Benefits of RPA:

There are a number of benefits that organizations achieve by adopting RPA. Listed below are a few of them:

  1. Results in reduced operational costs
  2. Enhanced customer query resolution
  3. Eliminates tedious manual tasks and saves time
  4. Reduced chances of errors are minimal since bots do not fall prey to human error

Selenium vs RPA: Key Differences

Automation Component

Uses the WebDriver for driving browsers automatically

Focuses on deploying bots configured for performing a particular task

As detailed above, Selenium and RPA accomplish two entirely different tasks. This article seeks to dissolve the “Selenium vs RPA” question completely, by dissecting the offerings of each tool. This depicts that they do not operate in the same space, and one cannot be replaced by the other.