At what point does the stock market tumble become funny?

We are living through a massive sell-off on the stock markets, fueled by sheer panic. At what point does panic become funny?

OStatic reported on Wednesday that public open-source companies may be vulnerable as they watch their market capitalizations get flushed down the toilet. Unfortunately, it's not just Red Hat, Novell, and Sun that are getting pulverized by Wall Street. The entire market is in free-fall.

Is there a bottom in sight?

Novell and Sun are worth more dead than alive, with more cash on hand than their market capitalizations. It's not quite so bad for Microsoft and some other technology vendors: Adobe, for example, has an $11 billion market capitalization with $4 billion in total equity.

But that doesn't tell the entire story. Keeping with Adobe, it has lost roughly 50 percent of its market value since January 2008, this despite reporting quarter-after-quarter of growth and excellent performance. Google? It has lost 56 percent of its value in 2008, despite dominating the web advertising market, a market projected to keep gaining at old media's expense, with Proctor & Gamble and others actively looking at moving more advertising spend to the Web.

This is insanity. It makes no sense, because it is a product of panic. There are many reasons for the massive sell-off on the financial markets, but they all derive from panic: I've got to sell Asset X to be able to cover my obligations to Creditor Y. If everyone decided to stop panic-selling today, things would stabilize.

Alas! That's not going to happen. So perhaps the only thing to do is laugh at our folly and the trillions invested in our house of cards. If you step back from the mess for a minute, it's plain that Wall Street's sense of valuation has been thrown askew. Best to wait until the mania subsides, then buy heavily.

Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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