7 Best PhantomJS Alternatives for Developer 2023

Back in the 2000s, PhantomJS rose to stardom as one of the first headless browsers that empowered developers to automate critical tasks like testing and data extraction from websites. However, the project was discontinued in 2017, leaving many developers seeking a viable replacement.

This comprehensive guide will explore the top 7 PhantomJS alternatives available in 2023. I'll compare the options across several factors to help you find the best substitute for your specific needs.

Here's a quick peek at what we'll cover:

  • Why PhantomJS was discontinued and the need for alternatives.
  • Head-to-head comparison of leading replacement options.
  • Pros, cons, adoption stats and examples for using each tool.
  • PhantomJS alternatives categorized by language and use case.
  • Key decision criteria when evaluating options.
  • My recommendation for the best PhantomJS substitute.

Let's get started!

The Rise and Fall of PhantomJS

First, let's quickly understand why developers seek a PhantomJS alternative today.

Why PhantomJS Became Popular

PhantomJS burst onto the scene in 2011 as an early pioneer of headless web browsing.

Its lean yet powerful API enabled developers to:

  • Automate actions like typing, clicking, scrolling etc.
  • Execute JavaScript code on web pages
  • Capture website screenshots
  • Scrape and extract data from web content

This opened up game-changing use cases like:

Automated testing – PhantomJS allowed simulating user interactions to test web applications without needing to spin up an actual browser.

Web scraping – It could execute JavaScript code to render dynamic content for extraction by scrapers.

PhantomJS gained huge popularity among developers as an easy-to-use and capable headless browser. It was even dubbed “the Swiss Army knife of web development” for its versatility.

The Demise of PhantomJS

So why isn't PhantomJS used anymore today?

As an open source project, PhantomJS relied on community contributors for maintenance and new features.

Over time, the small team struggled to keep up with the numerous issues and requests coming from its widespread user base. The prolonged release cycles caused frustration among developers.

This chart shows how contributor activity declined sharply after peaking in 2015:

In April 2017, the principal contributor Vitaly Slobodin announced his decision to stop working on PhantomJS and step down as the maintainer.

With that, the project was practically discontinued as other contributors couldn't match the efforts required to maintain it.

The Need for Alternatives

PhantomJS' demise left developers seeking alternative headless browsers that were actively maintained and supported modern web standards.

This coincided with the rise of new contenders like Puppeteer and Playwright that promised greater capabilities.

Let's see how the leading replacement options available today compare.

PhantomJS Alternative #1: Puppeteer

Puppeteer is a popular NodeJS library created and maintained by Google for controlling headless Chrome. With strong backing from Google, it's one of the most capable PhantomJS substitutes available today.


Puppeteer provides a high-level API for:

  • Launching a headless Chrome instance
  • Navigating to web pages
  • Interacting with elements (clicking, typing, scrolling etc.)
  • Executing JavaScript code
  • Capturing screenshots
  • Generating PDFs
  • Retrieving data

It also supports Chrome DevTools for debugging and inspecting pages.

Puppeteer runs on top of Chromium, so it powers the latest features of the Chrome browser.

Use Cases

The key use cases enabled by Puppeteer include:

  • Web scraping – Extract and parse data from websites using headless Chrome.
  • Web testing – Automate UI tests by simulating interactions.
  • Screenshot testing – Programmatically verify UI rendering via screenshots.
  • PDF generation – Convert web pages to PDF using Chrome's printing capability.

These align closely with PhantomJS' original capabilities.

Why It's a Good PhantomJS Alternative

Here are some key reasons why Puppeteer is considered among the best PhantomJS replacements:

  • Actively maintained by Google – With backing from Google, Puppeteer benefits from regular updates and maintenance.
  • Supports latest browser features – Runs on top of Chromium/Chrome so can leverage all the latest capabilities.
  • Headless and full Chrome modes – Can run in headless mode or launch a full Chrome browser.
  • Easy debugging – Integration with Chrome DevTools allows setting breakpoints and debugging.
  • Large community – Already has over 470 contributors on GitHub contributing to its growth.
  • Multi-runtime support – Can run on desktops as well as ChromeOS and Android.

Adoption and Growth

Puppeteer has seen massive growth in adoption since its release:

  • Over 84.3k GitHub stars
  • More than 9.1k GitHub forks
  • 4,853,082 weekly npm downloads

This chart shows Puppeteer's soaring popularity:

Example Usage

Here is sample code to get started with Puppeteer:

// Import Puppeteer 
const puppeteer = require('puppeteer');

// Launch headless Chrome browser
const browser = await puppeteer.launch(); 

// Open a new page
const page = await browser.newPage();

// Navigate page to URL  
await page.goto('https://example.com');

// Get page title text
const title = await page.evaluate(() => document.title); 

console.log('Page title is: ' + title);

// Close browser
await browser.close();

This demonstrates Puppeteer's concise API for automating headless Chrome.


Puppeteer does have some limitations worth noting:

  • Only supports Chromium-based browsers like Chrome.
  • Can be slow when running tests across multiple browser instances in parallel.
  • Page evaluation uses JavaScript which some may be less familiar with.

Thanks to Google's backing and widespread adoption, Puppeteer has emerged as the most popular PhantomJS successor.

For most use cases, it provides the right mix of capabilities and support. Its highly active development also ensures it continues to incorporate the latest browser features.

PhantomJS Alternative #2: Playwright

Created by Microsoft, Playwright is another leading contender vying to replace PhantomJS. It offers cross-browser support and an easy-to-use API.


Playwright provides a single JavaScript API to automate the following browsers:

  • Google Chrome
  • Mozilla Firefox
  • WebKit (Safari)

It handles the browser-specific differences under the hood, so you can write cross-browser tests with minimal changes.

Playwright also installs and manages the browsers for you without needing any external drivers.

Use Cases

Playwright is well-suited for:

  • Cross-browser testing – Easily run and automate tests across Chrome, Firefox and Safari.
  • Responsive testing – Test mobile experiences by emulating device sizes and touch inputs.
  • Web scraping – Extract data from web pages by executing JavaScript.
  • Screenshot testing – Programmatically verify UI rendering.

Why It's a Good PhantomJS Alternative

Here are some of Playwright's strengths that make it a leading PhantomJS successor:

  • Actively maintained by Microsoft – Microsoft is heavily investing in growing Playwright.
  • Supports all major browsers – Test how your web apps work on Chrome, Firefox and Safari.
  • Automatic browser installation – No need to manually setup browser drivers like Selenium.
  • Intuitive API – Simple and easy to use APIs even for beginners.
  • Good documentation – Thorough documentation site with examples and guides.
  • Speed – Fast execution thanks to browser automation optimizations.

Adoption and Growth

Playwright is seeing massive adoption since its launch:

  • over 54.1k GitHub stars
  • more than 3k GitHub forks
  • 1.3+ million weekly npm downloads

The growth trends show Playwright's rising popularity:

This widespread adoption is fueling Playwright's continued growth and enhancement.

Example Usage

Here is sample code to get started with Playwright in JavaScript:

// Require Playwright
const { chromium } = require('playwright'); 

(async () => {
  // Launch Chromium browser
  const browser = await chromium.launch();

  // Create a new page 
  const page = await browser.newPage();

  // Navigate page to URL
  await page.goto('https://example.com'); 
  // Get page title 
  const title = await page.title();

  console.log('Page title is: ' + title);

  // Close browser
  await browser.close(); 


The API is simple and familiar even if you've used Puppeteer before.


Some downsides to note about Playwright:

  • Limited support for older legacy browsers.
  • Parallel test execution can slow it down.
  • Still maturing so some advanced features may be missing.

With multi-browser support, easy setup and scalable testing, Playwright emerges as a top-tier PhantomJS successor. Its rapid growth points to strong momentum going forward.

For most test automation and web scraping uses, Playwright is among the best PhantomJS replacements available today.

PhantomJS Alternative #3: Selenium

Selenium is the grand old dame of browser test automation. Despite its age, it remains a capable PhantomJS alternative.


Selenium can be used to control and automate popular web browsers like Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Edge.

It works by:

  1. Launching a browser instance.
  2. Executing commands to simulate user interactions.
  3. Asserting page state using test scripts.

Selenium supports multiple programming languages via client libraries and browser driver plugins.

Use Cases

Selenium is commonly used for:

  • Web testing – Automate UI tests simulating user journeys.
  • Web scraping – Retrieve dynamic content by executing JavaScript.
  • Test automation – Integrate with CI/CD pipelines to run regression tests.
  • Performance testing – Benchmark web apps under different loads.

Why It's a Good PhantomJS Alternative

Here are some of Selenium's core strengths:

  • Supports multiple languages – Selenium clients are available for Python, Java, C#, Ruby, JavaScript, etc.
  • Open source – The project is open source with decades of learnings incorporated.
  • Large community – Backed by an extensive community of users and contributors.
  • Cross-browser testing – Supports all major browsers including headless execution.
  • Extensive documentation – Detailed documentation site and guides available.
  • Integrations – Plugs into test runners like JUnit and frameworks like Django.

Adoption and Growth

Selenium remains an active project after decades of development:

  • Over 27.4k GitHub stars
  • More than 7.7k GitHub forks

This graph shows Selenium is still among the top open source projects by contributor activity:

Example Usage

Here is how to get started with Selenium in Python:

from selenium import webdriver
from selenium.webdriver.common.keys import Keys

# Launch Chrome browser
driver = webdriver.Chrome()

# Maximize browser window

# Navigate to website URL

# Get page title

# Close browser

As you can see, the API focuses on imperatively automating browser interactions.


Some downsides of using Selenium include:

  • Steep learning curve for new users.
  • Setup and configuration can get complex.
  • Tends to execute slower than other options.
  • Some unsupported edge cases.

For users with prior Selenium experience, it remains a relevant PhantomJS alternative thanks to its maturity and language support.

However, for new adopters, I'd recommend evaluating more modern options like Playwright and Puppeteer.

PhantomJS Alternative #4: Cypress

Cypress is a feature-packed frontend testing framework that aims to simplify and accelerate test creation and execution.


Cypress focuses on enabling:

  • Rapid test writing using simple commands
  • Live debugging capabilities
  • Video recording of test runs
  • Executing tests in parallel across browsers

It uses a unique approach that differs from traditional Selenium testing.

Use Cases

Cypress is purpose-built for:

  • Frontend testing – Unit, integration and end-to-end testing of web UIs.
  • Regression testing – Automatically re-run tests during development.
  • Web scraping – Extract data from sites using its built-in cy.request() method.

Why It's a Good PhantomJS Alternative

Here are some standout strengths of Cypress:

  • Fast and consistent – Architected for speed and reliability compared to Selenium.
  • Time travel debugging – Click through test execution to debug from any point.
  • Intuitive assertions – Human-readable assertions like expect(A).to.eq(B)
  • Spies and stubs – Mock API responses and spy on function calls.
  • Screenshots and videos – Automatically record test runs to simplify debugging.

Adoption and Growth

Since launching in 2015, Cypress has seen impressive growth:

  • Over 44.3k GitHub stars
  • More than 5k GitHub forks

Its weekly npm download trend shows surging popularity:

Cypress is clearly catching up to early frontrunners like Puppeteer and Playwright.

Example Usage

Here is a sample test written using Cypress:

// Login test

it('logs in successfully', () => {

  // Visit page

  // Find username/password fields

  // Click login button

  // Assert redirected to home page
  cy.url().should('include', '/home');


The API uses chained commands and readable assertions.


Some downsides of using Cypress include:

  • Only supports JavaScript for writing tests.
  • Limited ways to query elements compared to Selenium.
  • Integration with CI/CD systems still maturing.

For frontend engineers, Cypress stands out as a next-gen testing framework that can replace PhantomJS.

Its focus on enhancing developer experience makes writing, running and debugging tests a breeze.

PhantomJS Alternative #5: WebdriverIO

WebdriverIO amalgamates capabilities from Selenium WebDriver and native browser tools like Chrome DevTools. This makes it a unique PhantomJS.


WebdriverIO allows you to:

  • Access Selenium's capabilities for automating browsers
  • Write tests using Chrome DevTools protocols
  • Integrate tools like Puppeteer and BrowserStack
  • Run tests on remote Selenium Grids and cloud providers

It aims to be the glue integrating various test automation tools.

Use Cases

WebdriverIO is well suited for:

  • End-to-end testing – Orchestrate entire user workflows across multiple pages.
  • Integration testing – Test UIs combined with APIs and microservices.
  • Web scraping – Extract data from pages using headless Chrome or Puppeteer.

Why It's a Good PhantomJS Alternative

Here are some notable features of WebdriverIO:

  • Selenium integration – Standard browser automation capabilities provided out of the box.
  • Puppeteer support – Can directly leverage Puppeteer as the automation driver.
  • Active community – Average of ~50 contributors per month on GitHub.
  • Mobile testing – Emulate mobile screens and touch actions during testing.

Adoption and Growth

WebdriverIO has a sizable user base actively using and contributing to the project:

  • Over 7k GitHub stars
  • Around 600 GitHub forks
  • 1+ million npm downloads per week

This growth graph shows its upward trend:

Example Usage

Here is a test example using WebdriverIO:

// Import WebdriverIO
const webdriverio = require('webdriverio');

// Initialize driver
const browser = await webdriverio.remote({  
  capabilities: {
    browserName: 'chrome'

// Navigate to page  
await browser.url('https://example.com');

// Get page title
const title = await browser.getTitle(); 

console.log('Title is: ' + title);

// Close browser  
await browser.deleteSession();

As you can see, the API will be familiar if you've used Selenium before.


Some downsides to note about WebdriverIO:

  • Setup can get complex requiring several components.
  • Limited language support outside of JavaScript/TypeScript.
  • Advanced features have a learning curve.

WebdriverIO carves out a niche as a tool bringing Selenium and native browser automation together. For engineers needing this flexibility, it can be a relevant PhantomJS replacement.

PhantomJS Alternative #6: Playwright for Python

Playwright also offers Python support for developers who prefer to code in Python instead of JavaScript.


Playwright for Python provides:

  • First-class support for Python
  • The ability to automate Chromium, WebKit and Firefox browsers
  • Features like automatic wait, proxies, auto-closing resources etc.

It allows Python developers to leverage Playwright's capabilities for testing, automation and web scraping.

Use Cases

Typical use cases include:

  • Cross-browser testing – Run and automate tests across different browsers.
  • Web scraping – Extract data from JavaScript rendered sites.
  • Visual testing – Screenshot based regression testing.

Why It's a Good PhantomJS Alternative

Here are the notable features Playwright for Python provides:

  • Multi-browser support – Test across Webkit, Firefox and Chrome engines.
  • Actively maintained – Benefits from core Playwright development.
  • Automatic browser install – No need to setup browser drivers.
  • Python support – Enables Python developers to use Playwright.

Adoption and Growth

Playwright for Python is seeing impressive growth:

  • Over 3.4k GitHub stars
  • Around 260 GitHub forks
  • 330k weekly PyPI downloads

In terms of contributors, it already has 98 contributors on GitHub.

Example Usage

Here is a usage example:

from playwright.sync_api import sync_playwright  

with sync_playwright() as p:
  # Launch browser
  browser = p.webkit.launch()
  # Open new page
  page = browser.new_page()

  # Navigate 

  # Get page content

  # Close browser

Usage is quite similar to the JavaScript API with Playwright.


Some limitations to note:

  • Python support still maturing compared to JavaScript.
  • Some advanced features may only work on Chromium.
  • Documentation improves but still developing.

For Python developers, Playwright for Python brings the capabilities of Playwright to Python. It's emerging as a leading contender among PhantomJS replacements.

PhantomJS Alternative #7: Scrapy & Splash

Scrapy is a popular Python web scraping framework. Integrating it with Splash allows rendering JavaScript to crawl dynamic sites.


Splash is a JavaScript rendering service that Scrapy can use to:

  • Load pages and execute JavaScript
  • Return rendered HTML to Scrapy for parsing
  • Isolate browsers to prevent detection

This Splash integration enables Scrapy to scrape modern JavaScript-heavy sites.

Use Cases

The combination works well for:

  • JavaScript web scraping – Crawl and extract data from dynamic websites.
  • Scraping Single Page Apps – Splash renders client-side JavaScript on SPA sites.
  • Web testing – Execute tests requiring JavaScript execution.

Why It's a Good PhantomJS Alternative

Some notable features provided by Scrapy & Splash:

  • JavaScript rendering – Splash executes JS to generate static HTML for Scrapy.
  • Built for scraping – Splash is designed specifically for rendering pages for scrapers.
  • Asynchronous crawling – Scrape pages in parallel for faster crawling.

Adoption and Growth

Scrapy itself is a popular Python web scraping framework:

  • 16.5k GitHub stars
  • 5.5k GitHub forks

Integrating it with Splash further enables JavaScript crawling.

An average of 15 contributors work on the Scrapy Splash integration each month.

Example Usage

Here is how Splash can be used with Scrapy:

import scrapy
from scrapy_splash import SplashRequest

class MySpider(scrapy.Spider):

  # Make Splash request  
  yield SplashRequest(

  # Parse rendered HTML response
  def parse(self, response):
    # Extract data from JavaScript rendered response

SplashRequest handles rendering via Splash before passing the result to parse.


Some disadvantages of using Scrapy & Splash:

  • Additional setup work required to run a Splash service.
  • Rendering pages on Splash can slow down crawling.
  • Not as fully featured as dedicated testing tools.

For existing Scrapy users, Splash integration enables rendering JavaScript. But most developers are better served by more dedicated tools like Playwright and Puppeteer.

Honorable Mentions

Some other PhantomJS alternatives worth looking into:

  • HtmlUnit – Headless Java browser primarily focused on testing web apps.
  • Zalenium – Open source Selenium Grid with built-in video recording and Live preview.
  • Taiko – Node.js library with focus on reliably testing modern web apps.

Key Decision Factors When Choosing a PhantomJS Alternative

When picking a suitable PhantomJS replacement, here are some of the key factors to evaluate:

Active Development

Prefer actively maintained options like Puppeteer, Playwright and Cypress that incorporate the latest browser features and improvements.

Intended Use Case

For web scraping, Puppeteer and Playwright provide speed and capabilities tailored to that use case.

For testing, Cypress and Selenium have more dedicated features like assertions, mocks, test runners etc.

Language Support

JavaScript: Puppeteer, Playwright, Cypress
Python: Playwright, Selenium, Scrapy+Splash
Java: Selenium, HtmlUnit

Community Adoption

Selenium has the largest community while Puppeteer and Playwright are growing rapidly. Bigger ecosystems provide better support and learning resources.

Browser Support

Selenium and Playwright support Chrome, Firefox, Safari.
Puppeteer is Chrome-only but faster.


Puppeteer and Playwright are optimized for speed. Selenium is generally slower.

Ease of Use

Puppeteer, Playwright and Cypress have simpler, easy to learn APIs compared to Selenium.

Recommendation for the Best PhantomJS Alternative

Based on the key considerations above, my recommendation for most developers is Playwright or Puppeteer.

Here is a quick summary of why:

  • Actively maintained by Microsoft and Google respectively. You'll benefit from the continued improvements and support.
  • Focus on speed, reliability and ease-of-use. The APIs are simple and familiar.
  • Impressive adoption and community support. Documentation and learning resources are freely available.
  • Suited for main use cases like testing, scraping and automation. Broad capabilities covered.

For Python developers, Playwright for Python brings you the same benefits.

Unless you have very specific needs, Playwright and Puppeteer are the best modern PhantomJS replacements for most users.

PhantomJS Alternatives by Programming Language

Here is a breakdown of the top alternatives categorized by language:


  • Puppeteer – Headless Chrome automation
  • Playwright – Multi-browser testing
  • Cypress – Optimized for front end testing


  • Playwright – Multi-browser automation
  • Selenium – Veteran browser testing framework
  • Scrapy + Splash – Rendering JS pages for Scrapy


  • Selenium – Browser automation with Java bindings
  • HtmlUnit – Headless browser for testing web apps


  • Selenium – WebDriver bindings for .NET developers
  • Playwright – .NET API support


PhantomJS ushered in tremendous innovation that enabled developers to automate browsers for testing and scraping.

Although it is discontinued, powerful options have taken its place like Puppeteer, Playwright and Cypress.

These modern alternatives build on PhantomJS' capabilities by providing:

  • Multi-language support
  • Latest browser features
  • Faster performance
  • Easier debugging
  • Active maintenance

For most developers today, Playwright and Puppeteer represent the most well-rounded and capable PhantomJS replacements.

I hope this guide has provided you a comprehensive overview of the various alternatives. Let me know if you have any other questions!

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