European Commission Unveils Strategy to Lead Web 4.0 and Virtual Worlds

A new strategy for Web 4.0 and virtual worlds has been unveiled by the European Commission in an effort to steer the next technological revolution and guarantee a safe, open, and welcoming online environment for individuals, organizations, and government agencies across the EU.

Web 4.0, the next generation of the internet, is expected to integrate digital and real objects and environments, enhancing interactions between humans and machines. The EU economy’s outlook beyond 2030 identifies digitalisation as a key driver, with Web 4.0 as a significant technological transition that will bring an interconnected, intelligent, and immersive world. The global virtual worlds market is projected to grow from €27 billion in 2022 to over €800 billion by 2030.

The new strategy aims to create a Web 4.0 and virtual worlds that reflect EU values and principles, where people’s rights are fully respected and European businesses can thrive. The strategy aligns with the 2030 objectives of the Digital Decade policy programme and its key pillars of digitalisation: skills, business, and public services. It also addresses the openness and global governance of virtual worlds and Web 4.0.

Key pillars of the strategy include:

  1. Empowering people and reinforcing skills: The Commission plans to promote guiding principles for virtual worlds and develop a ‘Citizen toolbox’ by the first quarter of 2024. It will also work with Member States to set up a talent pipeline and support skills development through projects funded by the Digital Europe Programme and the Creative Europe programme.
  2. Supporting a European Web 4.0 industrial ecosystem: The Commission has proposed a candidate Partnership on Virtual Worlds under Horizon Europe, starting possibly in 2025, to foster excellence in research and develop an industrial and technological roadmap for virtual worlds.
  3. Supporting societal progress and virtual public services: The Commission is launching two new public flagships, “CitiVerse”, an immersive urban environment for city planning and management, and a European Virtual Human Twin, which will replicate the human body to support clinical decisions and personal treatment.
  4. Shaping global standards for open and interoperable virtual worlds and Web 4.0: The Commission will engage with internet governance stakeholders worldwide and promote Web 4.0 standards in line with the EU’s vision and values.

The strategy builds on the work of the European Commission on virtual worlds and consultations with citizens, academia, and businesses. The Commission hosted a European Citizens’ Panel on Virtual Worlds between February and April 2023, whose recommendations have guided specific actions included in the strategy on Web 4.0 and virtual worlds.

The Commission’s initiative is a significant step towards ensuring that the future of the internet and virtual worlds is shaped by a broad range of stakeholders, reflecting diverse perspectives and interests. It highlights the EU’s commitment to leading the next technological transition, fostering innovation, and ensuring that the digital environment remains open, secure, and inclusive.


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What Is Web 4.0?

Web 4.0 (or Web4) is an innovative concept outlined by the European Commission, designed to compete with the rapidly emerging trend of Web 3.0, which is gaining significant momentum in countries or regions such as the USA, Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Singapore. The Commission’s vision for Web 4.0 aims to position the European Union at the forefront of the next technological transition, surpassing the decentralization of Web 3.0.


Web 4.0 is anticipated to provide truly intuitive, immersive experiences by seamlessly integrating digital and real objects and environments, enhancing interactions between humans and machines. This integration is expected to be achieved through advanced artificial and ambient intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT), trusted blockchain transactions, virtual worlds, and extended reality (XR) capabilities. It is expected to be driven by open technologies and standards that ensure interoperability between platforms and networks, and freedom of choice for users.

Virtual Worlds

Virtual worlds, integral to Web 4.0, are immersive 3D environments that merge virtual, digital, and physical realities, offering highly interactive experiences. These environments persist and evolve even without user interaction and serve diverse purposes, including design, simulation, collaboration, learning, socializing, transactions, and entertainment.

These next-generation virtual worlds are finding applications across sectors such as education, healthcare, manufacturing, and public services, transforming the way we learn, work, and interact. However, they also present challenges, including privacy, security, ethical considerations, and societal impact, necessitating a balance between opportunities and risks.

In the EU, approximately 3,700 entities operate within the virtual worlds subdomain, contributing to about 24% of the global total. Policymakers are tasked with fostering economic growth and digital evolution while ensuring the creation of responsible and fair virtual worlds.


Web 4.0 and virtual worlds hold significant opportunities across industrial and societal domains. In manufacturing, virtual twins can help optimize production processes, making them more efficient and sustainable.

In the cultural and creative industry, virtual worlds offer new ways to create, promote, and distribute content and engage with audiences. In education and training, especially in the medical field, virtual worlds can be used for simulations, reducing risks and improving accuracy.

Virtual classrooms can enable students and teachers to visualize abstract subjects or simulate scientific experiments without taking any risks.


Web 4.0 and virtual worlds also present several challenges, including issues related to awareness, access to trustworthy information, digital skills, user acceptance, and trust in new technologies. There are also broader challenges related to fundamental rights and business challenges such as ecosystem fragmentation and access to finance.

EU Strategy

The European Commission has launched a strategy for Web 4.0 and virtual worlds to steer the next technological transition and ensure an open, secure, trustworthy, fair, and inclusive digital environment for EU citizens, businesses, and public administrations.

The strategy aims to empower people and reinforce skills, support a European Web 4.0 industrial ecosystem, support societal progress and virtual public services, and shape global standards for open and interoperable virtual worlds and Web 4.0.

Image source: Shutterstock


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