Selenium is a web automation tool. It can be used to crawl and scrape websites. It requires a web browser installed to use as a web driver: we’re going to use Firefox. We’ll also need to trick Firefox into thinking there is a display attached: we’ll user Xvfb for that.

One setup, you’ll be able to run Selenium scripts at your pleasure.


  • A virgin Alpine Linux container
  • A medium knowledge of Linux

Add Firefox repository to APK

As of this blog post, Firefox is not available in the main alpine repository. You can search the Alpine repository to find out where you can install Firefox from. In my case, it is available in the community repository branch v3.3.

With that information, I can add the following line to /etc/apk/repositories

Update your cache to pull from the new repository

apk upgrade --update-cache --available

Install Selenium dependencies

Now you should be install Firefox and all other Selenium dependencies without issue.

apk add xvfb firefox dbus py-pip ttf-dejavu

Here is what we just installed:

Repository Purpose
xvfb A virtual display driver. We're building a headless system, so we need a virtual display for our web browser to run in.
firefox We will use the Firefox driver for Selenium. This is what we will use for scraping web sites.
py-pip Used to install Selenium drivers for Python
ttf-dejavu Fonts! These are required for Firefox to render pages

Setup Xvfb virtual display server

Test Xvfb is setup properly

We should be able to run the Xvfb virtual display server by running

Xvfb :99 -ac &

Check to make sure your display server is running using the top command.

Note: If you get an error complaining about a machine-id, install the dbus package and run dbus-uuidgen > /etc/machine-id. You can then uninstall dbus.

Setup Xvfb to start on system boot

We will use the local service to create a basic script that will start our service at boot time. We’ll start by enabling the local service to run at boot.

rc-update add local default

Now we need to create our start script. When local service is enabled, it will run all executable scripts in the /etc/local.d/ that end with .start at boot time. It will run all .stop scripts when the local service is stopped

In our case, we just need a single script /etc/local.d/Xvfb.start with the following lines:

/usr/bin/Xvfb :99 -ac &

Now make it executable:

chmod +x /etc/local.d/Xvfb.start

Note: Now is a good time to test that everything is working smoothly. Stop and start your container and then check to see if the Xvfb service is running

Note: Creating a script to shutdown Xvfb is left as an exercise for the reader

Install Selenium with Python

We’re going to use Python Selenium bindings because it’s really easy to get started.

pip install --upgrade pip # ensure pip is upgraded to latest version
pip install selenium requests

That’s it. You can checkout the Selenium Python Getting Started Guide.