Open SourceSelenium Gets Some Sauce for Open Source Testing

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As increasing numbers of applications move online, the need for functional cross-browser testing continues to grow, which is good news for the open source Selenium project—a popular automated application testing tool with nearly 3 million downloads to date.

The project now has a commercial backer courtesy of Sauce Labs, which is fresh off a $3.1 million Series A financing round, and which is led by Selenium creator Jason Huggins, who serves as the company’s Executive Software Chef (essentially the CTO).

And having the backer had led to some big changes: Sauce Labs today unveiled the Sauce IDE, a commercial version of the Selenium IDE with expanded testing capabilities.

Huggins explained to that the Sauce Labs IDE expands Selenium so that it can do automated application functional testing with Sauce’s Cloud-based service. The Sauce on Demand service provides Selenium testing on a pay-per-use basis for multiple browsers including Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari and Chrome. With the regular Selenium IDE, users had been limited to running Selenium as a Firefox add-on, making it somewhat restrictive for testing on multiple browsers.

Now, Selenium’s backers see the software—coupled with the Sauce Labs IDE and On Demand services—positioned to capitalize even more effectively on its core offering.

That’s because the two additions help address a common problem with application tests: They often run slowly. The way Selenium works is that it emulates what a browser would do when a user interacts with a Web site. As a result, it takes time to start up a browser and actually execute a test.

Prior to starting Sauce Labs, Huggins worked for Google, which also uses Selenium. He explained that Google threw hardware at the slowness problem, building out a Selenium farm to test all of its Google Apps. The Sauce Labs IDE and On Demand services are an attempt to provide a similar kind of fast testing capability to regular developers.

“For people using Selenium IDE today, now with a single download [of Sauce IDE,] they get a much broader piece of the Selenium value chain than what they could get with just the open source Selenium IDE,” Sauce Labs CEO John Dunham told

Doing cross-browser testing is a growing market, with vendors like Adobe—with its AdobeBrowserLab—and Gomezsome of the bigger names in a crowded field. Huggins noted that Sauce Labs and Selenium are focused on the software side and ensuring that application code works as it should.

Selenium is licensed under the open source Apache 2.0 license, while the Sauce IDE is commercially licensed. The plan for Sauce Labs is to continue to contribute and help grow both the open source Selenium IDE as well as the commercial Sauce Labs products.

For instance, Huggins noted that Sauce Labs has been helping to fix bugs in the core open source Selenium project on which the Sauce Labs IDE is built.

“We intend to provide leadership in terms of the development of the open source piece of the Selenium technology that is out there,” Dunham said. “As we start to begin charging for our enhanced versions, we’ll be building in, under the hood, the goodness of the open source part.”

Selenium 2.0

The Sauce Labs IDE comes as work in the open source community is gearing up for a Selenium 2.0 release in 2010—a process in which Google has been very active.

Huggins explained that with Selenium 2.0, there has been a social change in how developers think about the code. He noted that that way that Selenium had been supporting multiple languages was with code cogeneration that was not idiomatically correct for each specific language.

“For example, Python guys expect a programming library to look like Python code—same thing goes for Ruby,” Huggins said. “So what we’ve specifically done with the Selenium 2.0 effort is we’re breaking off the pieces so individuals can contribute to the project in the areas they are expert in and not have to know the whole project.”

By changing the structure of Selenium 2.0, the aim is to also make it easier to grow contributions to the framework.

“It’s a social effort to make Selenium more approachable for browser vendors and language communities,” Huggins said.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals.

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