Unlike iOS and more like Windows, macOS software can be acquired from sources other than Apple’s blessed Mac App Store. While this gives users and developers some flexibility, it also gives Apple a headache when it comes to controlling who and what installs software on Macs. Last June, Apple announced a way to put a leash on such apps with its Notarization program that will take full effect in February, giving apps that pass its process the thumbs up to run by default on macOS Catalina.
No, this is not Apple’s way of pushing app developers into its App Store, which requires even more stringent requirements and checks. Of course, simply submitting an app for Apple’s approval before it can safely run on devices is already enough to ruffle some people’s features. Not to mention the costs associated with the process, both in the annual $99 fee as well as requiring Xcode, could scare off other developers.
This notarization program is part of Apple’s GateKeeper framework that aims to safeguard macOS users against potentially malicious software downloaded outside of the App Store. In other words, these are software Apple has not screened. While it doesn’t require developers to stop distributing their apps from their own websites or sources, the processor practically ensures users that Apple has at least looked into the app and found nothing harmful.
Apple made the announcement in June but relaxed some of the requirements in September, giving developers until January 2020 to get ready. In a new announcement, it has extended the deadline just a wee bit until February 3, 2020. But after that date, all apps submitted for notarization should also submit all necessary requirements or they won’t be able to run on macOS Catalina by default.
The key phrase here is “by default”, which only covers applications that are launched by simply double-clicking on their icons. Users are still free to run any app they want or disable GateKeeper altogether at their own risk. Developers are also free to ignore Apple’s calls but they might lose out to competitors that will be able to boast about being given Apple’s blessing.