Much like the fashion industry constantly evolves, technology is doing the same, with the European Commission heralding the next big trend – Web 4.0 and virtual worlds. This isn’t merely a fleeting fad, but a holistic strategy aimed at charting the course for the next big tech transformation. It is poised to redefine our digital landscape, ensuring it remains open, secure, trustworthy, fair, and inclusive for everyone in the EU, from haute couture houses to streetwear startups.
Transitioning from Web 3.0 to Web 4.0: Like Moving from Pret-a-Porter to Couture
Just as we’re getting used to Web 3.0 – an internet marked by open access, decentralisation, and enhanced user control, much like the democratization of fashion through ready-to-wear – we’re now looking at the dawn of Web 4.0. This is the digital equivalent of a couture show, integrating digital and physical realms to enhance the synergy between humans and machines.
Looking at the EU economy’s forecast post-2030, the Commission’s report highlights digitalisation and Web 4.0 as the next big drivers, akin to how sustainability and ethical practices have taken centre stage in fashion. This paves the way for a seamlessly interconnected, intelligent, and immersive world, with the virtual worlds market projected to grow from €27 billion in 2022 to a mind-blowing €800 billion by 2030.
The Workshop in Virtual Worlds
Virtual worlds, like the fashion industry, offer massive opportunities but are not without their challenges. The Commission’s strategy aims to curate a digital space where EU principles are the vogue, individuals’ rights are safeguarded, and businesses can strut their stuff in these virtual runways.
The Foundations of the New Strategy
The Commission’s plan, in keeping with the 2030 objectives of the Digital Decade policy programme, is built upon four major pillars: skills, business, public services, and infrastructures, with additional focus on the openness and global governance of virtual worlds and Web 4.0.
Empowering Designers and Craftsmen Alike: The Commission aims to enhance public awareness, provide access to trustworthy information, and cultivate a talent pool for virtual worlds. This is similar to nurturing emerging designers and enhancing industry skills. It will introduce guiding principles for virtual worlds and a ‘Citizen toolbox’ by 2024. Initiatives will be taken to foster talent and support skills development, especially for women and girls, through the Digital Europe Programme and the Creative Europe programme.
Boosting the Business Ecosystem: Much like encouraging collaboration between designers, manufacturers, and retailers in the fashion industry, the Commission recognises the need for a connected ecosystem in the virtual world and Web 4.0 space. To address this, they have proposed a Partnership on Virtual Worlds under Horizon Europe, slated for a 2025 start. This partnership intends to foster research excellence and chalk out a roadmap for the future of virtual worlds.
Encouraging Government Initiatives: The strategy emphasises the role of virtual worlds in societal progress and public services, much like how fashion influences society and vice versa. To leverage these opportunities, the Commission is introducing “CitiVerse”, an immersive urban environment for city planning, and a European Virtual Human Twin for aiding clinical decisions and personalised treatments.
Setting Global Standards: As in the fashion industry, where a few major labels should not monopolise the market, the Commission seeks to shape global standards for Web 4.0 and virtual worlds to prevent dominance by a handful of players.
Just as every fashion trend is inspired by cultural, academic, and societal factors, the European Commission’s strategy is rooted in extensive consultations with citizens, academia, and businesses. As we look towards this new era of digital fashion, this strategy ensures that the future of Web 4.0 and virtual worlds remains as diverse, secure, and representative of European values as our fashion industry.