What Is Web4?

Web4, also known as the symbiotic web, is the fourth generation of the World Wide Web. It’s a decentralized, intelligent, and personalized version of the web built with emerging technologies, including blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), and peer-to-peer (P2P) networks to give users greater control over how data is shared and accessed. 


While there is no widely accepted definition of Web4, there are some key characteristics that proponents highlight as central to this version of the web, from decentralization and interoperability to AI-driven personalized content and immersive metaverse environments.  

One key characteristic is that this version of the web uses decentralized web apps (dApps), which run on a blockchain network rather than a single server and aren’t managed by a central authority. This means users can interact with apps without handing over their data to a third-party provider. 

The Key Pillars of Web4

There are three main technologies that have the potential to bring the symbiotic web to life. These are: 

  • Brain-computer interfaces 
  • The metaverse 
  • AI

1. Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCIs)

Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) are a key solution that could enable humans to communicate with machines more effectively in Web4 environments.

BCIs would be able to scan a user’s brain signals, analyze them, and then translate them into commands. These commands could include any number of things, such as sending a message to a friend or sending instructions to a physical device to be carried out. In a Web4 world, BCIs would enable users to interact with online content via thought alone. 

Hands-free interactions in this manner would not only improve the user experience of all users but would also support individuals with disabilities who might have been previously unable to use certain functions. 

One of the most famous examples of a BCI is Elon Musk’s Neuralink, an organization that is looking to “create a generalized brain interface to restore autonomy to those with unmet medical needs.” BCIs are closer to reality than you may think.

Neuralink recently received the necessary approval from the FDA to conduct human trials. 

2. The Metaverse

Another key ingredient to the concept of Web4 is the metaverse, which often includes both virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology. The metaverse would provide users with an immersive digital world to traverse online so they can interact with other people, brands, and services from a “boots on the ground” perspective.  

In July 2023, the European Union (EU) pointed to the metaverse as a critical part of its journey toward supporting Web4 and creating an inclusive digital environment for EU citizens and businesses. The reason for the EU’s support for the metaverse is that Web4 will require integration between real objects and virtual worlds in order to function. 

3. Artificial Intelligence (AI)

AI and machine learning (ML) technologies form another integral pillar of the Web4 because they unlock new possibilities for interactions between humans and machines.

For instance, AI could enable users to explore the web via a virtual assistant, exploring online content via text, voice, or potentially via thoughts, creating a “symbiotic” relationship between human users and their devices, with autonomous systems acting as a navigator, aggregator, and copilot. 

Likewise, AI also has the opportunity to offer users personalized content recommendations and services based on their interests in real time. 

The development of decentralized AI systems, which process and store data on the blockchain, would also move control over decision-making away from unaccountable black box software vendors and toward users. This could result in greater transparency and data security for individuals.

What’s The Difference Between Web4 and Web3?

While Web4 and Web3 are similar in the sense they are both decentralized versions of the World Wide Web, there are some distinct differences between the two.

Web3 Web4
Definition A decentralized version of the web. Even more decentralized version of the web.
Data Decentralized web apps on the blockchain. User data is stored on the blockchain under the user’s control.
Infrastructure Partially centralized. More decentralized, less reliance on centralized servers.
Interoperability Limited interoperability. Improved interoperability between platforms.
Personalization Limited personalization. Emphasizes personalized and symbiotic experiences with AI and the metaverse.
User Control Some ownership over data and assets. Greater ownership and control over user data and its sharing.
Interaction Decentralized but not highly integrated. Focus on a higher level of integration between humans and machines.

In short, the simplest way to understand the distinction between the two is that Web3 is a decentralized version of the web, but Web4 is an even more decentralized version of the web with a higher level of integration between humans and machines. 

The Symbiotic Web Is Coming (But Not Too Soon)

While Web4 is still a long way off from coming to fruition, as more organizations experiment with decentralized technologies and web apps online, the demand for greater privacy and a more immersive user experience online will continue to grow.

This will provide the perfect breeding ground for a symbiotic web.


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Tim Keary

Since January 2017, Tim Keary has been an independent technology writer and reporter covering enterprise technology and cybersecurity.