Apple’s Notary Service: ten months experience

In the coming months, Apple’s Notary Service can only get busier, as more and more developers – amateur and professional, hobbyist and large corporation – scramble to get their apps notarized ready for macOS 10.15. But how good and reliable is that service, once you’ve mastered the workflows needed to get notarized?

Apple first made its Notary Service available in early June 2018, during WWDC. I didn’t start using it until July, and my current records only provide full detail of my use during the last six of those ten months. I estimate between July and October 2018, I must have performed notarization on at least 30 occasions, and from then until today I have performed a further 72 notarizations on at least 30 different apps. All of these have been fully signed notarizations from Xcode archives, leaving Xcode to do the work. I haven’t used script extensions, nor attempted to notarize from the command line.

Typical notarizations take less than 5 minutes, from completing upload to Apple’s server to the app being ready to distribute. It’s been unusual for any to take much longer than that, although there were a couple of occasions last October which were delayed by over an hour. I’ve not had any failures at all, neither have I discovered the service to be unavailable. Generally speaking, I can get an app from final test build to distribution on this server within 10-15 minutes when I need.

Twice, just recently, Xcode 10.2 has reported silly errors as if I wasn’t notarizing but trying to send for review for the App Store. I simply quit Xcode, opened it again, and notarization worked fine.

Undoubtedly your experience will vary, as will mine now that the Notary Service is becoming more heavily used. Apple doesn’t give performance figures, although the most critical for any developer isn’t simply going to be service availability, but the overall time taken to complete notarization. The service could be running fine, but if the process takes several hours, it would be a major impediment to shipping apps.

So far, the Notary Service has been excellent in my experience. If you do encounter problems, the first place to visit is the Apple Developer Services status page, which should tell you whether there is a known problem with it or any other service.

I wish us all success in the coming months: long may Apple keep this marvellous free service running so briskly.