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Home Guide Selenium 3 vs Selenium 4: Core Differences

Selenium 3 vs Selenium 4: Core Differences

By Pooja Deshpande, Community Contributor -

Selenium is one of the most popular Automation Testing Frameworks used to test websites. Selenium 4 was introduced by Simon Stewart in 2018. However the stable version of Selenium 4 was released in October 2021. One of the major changes made in Selenium 4 was the introduction of W3C Webdriver protocol which replaced the previously used JSON wire protocol in Selenium 3. This article highlights the major differences between Selenium 3 and Selenium 4. 

Selenium 3 vs Selenium 4: Core Differences

1. Architecture of Selenium 3 vs Selenium 4

Selenium 3 Architecture:

Selenium 3 Architecture is made up of four major components:

  • Selenium Client library / Language Bindings
  • JSON wire protocol over HTTP
  • Browser Drivers
  • Browsers

Selenium Client Library connects with Browser Drivers and Browsers using the JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) Wire Protocol. 

JSON protocol provides a transport mechanism for transferring data between client and server on the web through various data structures like arrays and objects used to read and write data from JSON.

JSON acts as a REST (Representational State Transfer) API to exchange information between HTTP servers. 

JSON wire protocol was used before Selenium version 3.8. After Selenium 3.8, W3C protocol was introduced. But, in version 3 they still provided the support for JSON wire protocol, which was completely removed later in Selenium 4.


Selenium 3 Architecture

Selenium 4 Architecture:


Selenium 4 Architecture 2

W3C protocol was introduced because all the web browsers followed the W3C standards and also all the browser drivers followed the W3C standards. To standardise the communication, JSON wire protocol was replaced by W3C. This helped in better communication with the browsers, stability, and common code (i.e. no browser specific code required). 

Due to W3C there is a direct transfer of information between client and server.

Major components of selenium 4 are selenium client and webdriver language bindings.

2. Chrome Driver

Let’s first understand the hierarchy of Selenium 4 Webdriver (see diagram below) and see how ChromeDriver works. In Selenium 4 chromedriver class extends chromium driver, it was not the case in selenium 3. In Selenium 3, chromedriver directly extended Remote WebDriver class.

ChromeDriver for Selenium3. Optimized Selenium Grid in Selenium 4

Unlike Selenium 3, testers would no longer be required to start the Hub and Node jars every time they want to perform automation testing. In Selenium 4, Hub and Node are packed in a single jar file. Selenium Grid 4 architecture supports 4 processes – Session Map, Node, Router and Distributor. Selenium Grid 4 has more scalable and traceable infrastructure. There are some additional perks like enhanced GUI and built in support for Docker.

4. Selenium 4 IDE

Selenium 4 IDE is available for firefox and chrome browser. It is more than just a record and playback testing tool. There is a SIDE Runner tool which allows us to run selenium tests parallely on local selenium grid and cloud based selenium grid.They have also improved the GUI for a better user experience. 

5. Relative Locators

Relative Locators (above, below, toRightof,toLeftof, near) have been introduced in Selenium 4 which help to identify elements ‘relative’ to a particular element in DOM. Unlike Selenium 3, we don’t have to use a series of findelement commands to locate the surrounding elements. 

Selenium uses a javascript function getBoundingClientRect() to determine the size and positions of elements on the page and uses this information to locate the neighbouring elements.

Let’s see an example to get a better understanding of these relative locators:

Example of Relative Locators in Selenium 4 1


  • above
By username = RelativeLocator.with("loginusername")).above("loginpassword"));

  • below
By pwd = RelativeLocator.with("loginpassword")).below("loginusername"));

  • Left Of
By CloseBtn = RelativeLocator.with(By.tagName("button")).toLeftOf(By.xpath("//button[contains(text(),\"Log in\")]"));
  • Right Of
 By LoginBtn = RelativeLocator.with(By.xpath("//button[contains(text(),\"Log in\")]")).toRightOf(By.tagName("button"));
  • near
By username = RelativeLocator.with("loginusername")).near("loginpassword"));

6. Chrome DevTools

This is a new feature in selenium 4 as some applications are difficult to automate as they have different functionalities across different locations.It is hard to emulate the geo-locations in a browser using selenium.

Selenium 4 supports Chrome DevTools Protocol (CDP) with DevTools interface which helps to easily emulate such applications.This interface’s API’s help to diagnose issues and edit the pages on-the-fly very easily. These APIs also help testers for geolocation testing by replicating the geographical locations and also test under various network conditions like 2G, 3G,4G etc.

For example:

ChromeDriver driver = new ChromeDriver();
DevTools devTools = driver.getDevTools();

7. DesiredCapabilities

In Selenium 4, DesiredCapabilities class has been replaced by Options class. Now we need to pass Options class object as a parameter to the driver constructor.

For Example, FirefoxDriver(driver) will be FirefoxDriver(ChromeOptions).

In Selenium 3 

DesiredCapabilities caps = DesiredCapabilities.firefox();
caps.setCapability("platform", "Windows 10");
caps.setCapability("version", "92");
caps.setCapability("build", myTestBuild);
caps.setCapability("name", myTestName);
WebDriver driver = new RemoteWebDriver(new URL(cloudUrl), caps);

In Selenium 4 

FirefoxOptions browserOptions = new FirefoxOptions();
browserOptions.setPlatformName("Windows 10");
Map<String, Object> cloudOptions = new HashMap<>();
cloudOptions.put("build", myTestBuild);
cloudOptions.put("name", myTestName);
browserOptions.setCapability("cloud:options", cloudOptions);
WebDriver driver = new RemoteWebDriver(new URL(cloudUrl), browserOptions);

ProTip: You can generate Capabilities using BrowserStack’s Capabilities Generator for Selenium. It let’s you select from a comprehensive set of options you can use to customize your tests on the BrowserStack Selenium Grid.

Try BrowserStack for Free

8. Actions Class

There are a few methods that are newly added to the actions class in Selenium 4 such as ContextClick(), Click(), ClickAndHold(), doubleClick(), and release().

Let’s see a few examples of these methods:

  • clickAndHold
WebElement clickable = driver.findElement("clickable"));
new Actions(driver)
  • ContextClick
WebElement clickable = driver.findElement("clickable"));
new Actions(driver)
  • doubleClick
WebElement clickable = driver.findElement("clickable"));
new Actions(driver)
  • Click
WebElement clickable = driver.findElement("click"));
new Actions(driver)
  • Release
WebElement clickable = driver.findElement("click"));
new Actions(driver)

Let’s see the differences discussed above in short

Selenium 4Selenium 3
Selenium 4 uses W3C standard protocolSelenium 3 used JSON wire protocol
Chrome Driver class extends chromium driver classChrome Driver class extended Remote webdriver class
Optimised Selenium Grid with enhanced GUI and support for DockerNo Support for docker
Enhanced Selenium IDE with improved GUI and cloud based selenium gridSelenium IDE just available as a firefox add-on
Testers need not start the Hub and Node jars everytime they perform automation testing using Selenium Grid.Testers always had to start Hub and Node jars which was a difficult task in selenium 3.


After looking at the above points we can conclude that Selenium 4 offers a much better experience in terms of the whole testing process with much better options than Selenium 3.

However no matter which version of Selenium you use it’s always better to test on real devices for efficient results. BrowserStack’s  Cloud Selenium Grid helps to run parallel tests. It allows you to choose across 3000+ real devices and browsers and test under real user conditions for accurate test results.

Try BrowserStack for Free

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