Firefox 4 is on the way, and it bears a striking resemblance to Google Chrome.

On May 10, Mike Beltzner, Mozilla’s Director of Firefox, officially kicked off Firefox 4 with a presentation streamed live over the Web to the Mozilla community, which Beltzer invited to join in the development of the product.

Beltzer said that Firefox 4 will have three top priorities:

  • Speed – “making Firefox super-duper fast”
  • New Web functionality – “enabling new open, standard Web technologies (HTML5 and beyond)”
  • User customization – “putting users in full control of their browser, data, and Web experience”

From Beltzner’s presentation, it’s clear that speed is the top priority, and it should be. Firefox has been suffering from a reputation that it is slow and cumbersome, especially compared to its new rival, Google Chrome. The customization angle is Firefox’s big bet against Chrome, as Firefox works to give users more say over their own settings, data, and privacy.

In terms of speed, Firefox is definitely following Chrome’s lead. Beltzner said:

“The simpler an interface looks, the faster it will seem, in terms of the number of pixels presented. The less the user has to take in with their eye the quicker they can process it and the quicker the entire application seems. So we’re actually looking at making our interface faster just by changing the way it looks.”

Beltzner admitted that that means taking away user interface controls, and some users are going to scream about it, but it’s necessary to simplify and speed up Firefox. Chrome is sometimes criticized for having a UI that is too sparse and not very customizable. However, if you look at the screenshot below, you can see that Firefox is moving toward a much more Chrome-like UI (click the image to see a gallery with more screenshots).

Beltzner has also posted the slides from his Firefox 4 presentation on SlideShare and you can flip through them below.

If you have an HTML5-enabled browser, you can also watch the entire 50-minute video of Beltzner’s presentation.

See also: Firefox 4: Can it become ‘super-duper’ fast? (ZDNet)