On July 11, 2023, the European Commission adopted a new strategy on Web 4.0 in an attempt to ‘steer the next technological transition’. In a press release, the Commission affirmed its commitment to:
Ensure an open, secure, trustworthy, fair and inclusive digital environment for EU citizens, businesses and public administrations.
Comparing Web 3.0 with Web 4.0
The Commission describes the main features of Web 3.0 as ‘openness, decentralisation and user full empowerment’. The third generation of the web is currently in development and leverages the power of emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, blockchain and machine learning. This saw the creation of new organisational structures like decentralised autonomous organisations (DAOs) and the rise of digital assets like non-fungible tokens (NFTs), as well as decentralised applications and finance. Cryptocurrency underpins most Web 3.0 services and applications and is being increasingly accepted as an alternate means of payment to fiat currency.
Web 4.0 takes these innovations one step further, with the the Commission envisioning an ‘integration between digital and real objects and environments’, with ‘enhanced interactions between humans and machines’. As the inventions and applications of Web 3.0 become more advanced and socially integrated, the EU expects a ‘truly intuitive, immersive’ experience that ‘seamlessly’ blends physical and digital worlds. This concept of digitalisation is anticipated as a ‘key driver’ of web development, with the global virtual worlds market projected to skyrocket from approximately AUD$44.5B in 2022 to well over AUD$1.3T by 2030. In particular, the EU has noted five sectors which will benefit from Web 4.0:
Health - realistic training for emergencies and surgery simulation
Green transition - realistic simulations of global warming to enhance understanding
Industry - increased efficiency
Art and design - new ways to create
Education - a more experiential learning environment
The key pillars of the Web 4.0 strategy were developed in line with the EU’s Digital Decade policy programme and include skills, business, public services and infrastructures:
Indiviuduals: empowering people and reinforcing skills
Business: supporting a European Web 4.0 industrial ecosystem
Government: supporting social progress and virtual public services
Infrastructures: shaping global standards for open and interoperable Web 4.0
By announcing a Web 4.0 strategy, the Commission has declared a ‘head start in the next technological transition’. The Commission is planning for the transition to occur in line with EU values, principles and fundamental rights. The strategy offers a forward thinking precedent for other jurisdictions to follow as the world navigates the rapid evolution of the internet.