Selenium: The Open Source, the Myth, the Legend


Many people wonder what it means that Selenium is open source, and further, what the community element of that paradigm brings to the table. This article addresses some of the common misconceptions about that situation, as well as details some of the benefits of the community behind a product like Selenium.

When it comes time to select a tool for test automation, most organizations will create a list of candidates and whittle it down based on various measures: cost, features, alignment to existing standards, suitability for the software development lifecycle, and more. With the wide-scale adoption that Selenium has received in organizations of varying sizes and across many industries, the tool has found its way onto most company’s radars.

But from one place to another, this can raise some very interesting questions. Many wonder what it means to them that Selenium is open source, and further, what the community element of that paradigm brings to the table. Here, I address some of the common misconceptions of this situation, as well as talk about some of the real benefits of the community behind a product like Selenium.

The Myths

Open source software is not enterprise-worthy
Enterprise-quality open source software has existed for a very long time. I’m a big fan of the Apache Software Foundation (ASF), and you don’t need to look any further to find dozens of examples of high-quality open source software that have become competitive in the industry—and, in a handful of cases, industry standard. ASF was releasing tools like Tomcat and Ant as early as 2000.

I’m not quite sure on the origin of the myth that open source software is not worthy of the enterprise, but the IT community is certainly coming around on this one.

Open source software is slow to release updates and fixes
While I won’t vehemently shout “False!” at anyone who says this to me, I will debate the idea quite heavily. The hard part of talking about this misconception is that it sounds feasible. A community of developers who have other full-time jobs and aren’t getting paid to develop the software? Of course people assume that they’ll release slower and be less responsive!

Luckily, this is not the reality. While the scenario described here is entirely possible, the same can happen with proprietary software. Also, the developers behind Selenium and similarly successful open source projects have these challenges much higher on their list of priorities than you might guess at first. Couple this with the fact that you can see the source, find the bug, fix it, build it, use it, and share it with the community, and now you’re firing on all cylinders. If a bug is problematic enough to frustrate you, it’s frustrating plenty of others. Call enough attention to it and the community will respond in force.

Open source software compromises security
This one I don’t have a problem shouting about. I’ll grant that in organizations with lots of proprietary information it makes sense to have blanket policies about protection of source code. That being said, I have never heard an argument approaching legitimate claims that supported this point.

Security is about a lot more than software. It’s about arsenals of software, and systems designed to protect that software and your information. I’m not sure what angle people want to take on this, or if this rumor is simply an artifact of a fear of the unknown, but let’s be quite clear: An implementation of Selenium, or some other reputable open source software, does not inherently compromise the security of your organization or its information.

User Comments

Simon Rigler's picture

This is a very encouraging article on Selenium (a new adventure for us), and I enjoyed your writing style too :o)

January 12, 2016 - 6:08pm
Patrick Higgins's picture

One thing I always look at when evaluating an open source tool like Selenium is the level of popularity it has in the industry. Usually when a tool is very popular within the development or QA profession it is a good sign that the tool will be a well built and well maintained product. 

January 22, 2016 - 2:14pm
anwesha dash's picture

Selenium web driver is dependent on Appium for mobile  testing but in test cast by its inbuild functionality you can use that .

Still i would prefer selenium over Test cafe when it will be purely on functional automation

May 26, 2016 - 4:47am

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