I’m pretty sure it was tongue in cheek.
Everywhere I looked yesterday people were talking about Yahoo’s Alpha Geek–the life size statue built to reward the Yahoo! Mail team for their hard work in creating a better email service. Unfortunately for the black and white world of the internet (I’m looking at you, Slashdot) the fact that the hyperbolic language– “in recognition of tremendous intellectual efforts put forth in order to defeat Gmail”, and “Not since the code breakers in Britain’s Bletchley Park deciphered Germany’s Enigma code”– was indeed hyperbolic has completely sailed over many people’s heads. Even those who at first acknowledge that it may have been hyperbole, like Kevin Fox at Fury.com, backpedal.
But, call me crazy, I don’t think that anyone at Yahoo thinks that beating Gmail is at all like defeating the Nazis. What they probably meant to do, and you might want to sit down for this one, is get people talking about Yahoo! Mail. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve seen a link to a screenshot, a discussion of how much better the beta is than the current version or what shortcomings of Gmail are being fixed by the new service. Yahoo has everyone talking about their product right now without have a public release of it. Not bad at all.