On 11 July 2023, the European Commission unveiled its vision for Web 4.0, often referred to as the ‘Metaverse’, and virtual worlds.
This communication follows on from the State of the Union by Ursula van der Leyen (EU Commission President) in which she announced new initiatives in the digital era, in particular “on virtual worlds, such as [the] metaverse". During the first semester of 2023, the Commission also hosted the European Citizens' Panel on Virtual Worlds, which resulted in 23 recommendations, as well as published a Call for evidence on virtual worlds. The Commission has also recently published more in-depth studies on AR, VR, XR and virtual worlds. And the Commission is not alone, the EU Parliament, the Council and even the Belgian legislature are currently working on understanding and shaping the legal contours of the Metaverse.
Impact of the communication
Although communications do not have legal effect, they serve as a powerful compass for the EU political agenda and can trigger further legal initiatives. Thus, through the communication, the Commission has invited the EU Parliament and the Council to endorse the strategy and work on its implementation.
Content of the communication – 4 key takeaways
1. Defining the Web landscape
The Commission provides definitions of the Web 3.0 and Web 4.0. The Web 3.0, as defined by the Commission, corresponds to the generally accepted notion of Web 3.0, i.e. a decentralised web where users are more empowered, in particular to the extent that they can control and exploit their data, as well as manage their online identities.
The Web 4.0, as defined by the Commission, however corresponds to the concept of the Metaverse, i.e. a virtual and immersive environment blending the physical and digital worlds, and integrating new technologies such as AI, IoT and ambient intelligence, blockchain, XR (extended reality), cloud and edge computing, 5G and 6G, as well as high performance computing (such as quantum computing).
2. A blossoming economy
According to markets analysts, the Metaverse holds a truly transformative potential. Bloomberg estimates that the global market of virtual worlds is expected to grow from 27 billion in 2022 to over 800 billion by 2030, i.e. a 30-fold increase. The market potential is also confirmed by forecasts from International Data Corporation, Ecorys, Deloitte, McKinsey and PwC. Next to that, the Metaverse also promises to generate countless jobs, with XR alone predicted to generate over 23 million jobs by 2030, according to PwC.
3. Leveraging regulatory frameworks
The EU intends to build on existing legislation, i.e. mainly the DSA and DMA, the DGA and Data Act, the AI Act, the GDPR, MiCA, IP and consumer law.
4. Three cardinal points
The Commission's strategy revolves around three cardinal points: (i) fostering skills by enriching the pool of diverse ICT specialists, (ii) strengthening the industry, and (iii) cultivating common approaches and best practices among governments.
Only the future will tell whether the Metaverse, or Web 4.0, will deliver on its forecasted potential. As the future is prepared today, throughout this year, we have proposed a series of seminars to our clients, covering data governance and the use of data, IT and cloud contracting, cyber-security and AI. Reach out to us if you want to be part of this transformative journey.