Group of Eight
Since 1975, the heads of state or government of the major industrial democracies have been meeting annually to deal with the major economic and political issues facing their domestic societies and the international community as a whole. The six countries at the first summit, held at Rambouillet, France, in November 1975, were France, the United States, Britain, Germany, Japan and Italy (sometimes referred to as the G6). They were joined by Canada at the San Juan Summit of 1976 in Puerto Rico, and by the European Community at the London Summit of 1977. From then on, membership in the Group of Seven, or G7, was fixed, although 15 developing countries' leaders met with the G7 leaders on the eve of the 1989 Paris Summit, and the USSR and then Russia participated in a post-summit dialogue with the G7 after 1991. Starting with the 1994 Naples Summit, the G7 met with Russia at each summit (referred to as the P8 or Political Eight). The Denver Summit of the Eight was a milestone, marking full Russian participation in all but financial and certain economic discussions, and the 1998 Birmingham Summit saw full Russian participation, giving birth to the Group of Eight, or G8 (although the G7 continued to function along side the formal summits). At the Kananaskis Summit in Canada in 2002, it was announced that Russia would host the G8 Summit in 2006, thus completing its process of becoming a full member.
Today, G8 meetings are held with the purpose of discussing global issues such as economic growth, crisis management, global security, energy and terrorism. It has been widely stated that the G8 functions more to bring global attention to certain issues and that the group itself does not effect significant change or reform (see below section on Criticism for further critiques of the group). One reason for this lack of efficacy is that a number of key global players are not members of the group, for example, China, India, Brazil and Mexico.
The original group (the G6) was founded in order to provide major industrial powers of the non-communist world a venue in which to address economic concerns. The oil crisis of the 1970s was of particular concern to the group and eventually, Cold War politics entered the group's agenda as well. Thus, the original incentives and objectives of the G8 differ from those upheld by the group today. 
In recent years, the G8 has received criticism on numerous counts. The most widely criticized aspect of the G8 is its limited membership, which excludes major world players such as China, India, Brazil and Mexico. Accordingly, G8 meetings have become a common site for anti-globalization protestors, who contend that the group does not account for the interests of developing countries.
The inability of the group to enforce its policies on members has also been sited as a weakness. In particular, Russia's recent adoption of more authoritarian rule and its violation of numerous human rights have garnered increased attention and concern.
In light of the above-listed criticisms, the G8 has been described as anachronistic on a wide-scale in recent years.