The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is forming a committee to assess the effectiveness of its at-large membership structure.

Former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt will chair the nine-member study committee. It will examine how individuals can effectively participate in ICANN's business of coordinating the Internet.

The committee exists to ensure that individuals in many different regions have their opinions heard on Internet-related issues. ICANN will use the Web, public forums and mailing lists to solicit information.

Internet democracy The at-large membership program was designed to give Internet users a voice in the selection of directors appointed to the ICANN board, and in making policy decisions related to Internet names and addresses.

ICANN opened up its at-large membership to Internet users around the world in February last year, allowing people to vote for many key posts in the organization. Some speculated this process could lead to poor choices in ICANN's board of directors and other offices.

In October 2000, those concerns were highlighted by the controversial election of Andy Mueller-Maguhn - a member of the Hamburg-based hacker organization Chaos Computer Club - to ICANN's board.

ICANN was formed in September 1998 to oversee certain Internet technical management functions previously managed by the US government. ICANN is responsible for coordinating the management of the Internet domain name system (DNS), the allocation of IP (Internet Protocol) address space and other Internet protocol tasks.