A formal protocol declares a list of methods that client classes are expected to implement. Formal protocols have their own declaration, adoption, and type-checking syntax. You can designate methods whose implementation is required or optional with the @required and @optional keywords. Subclasses inherit formal protocols adopted by their ancestors. A formal protocol can also adopt other protocols. Formal protocols are an extension to the Objective-C language.
An informal protocol is a category on NSObject, which implicitly makes almost all objects adopters of the protocol. (A category is a language feature that enables you to add methods to a class without subclassing it.) Implementation of the methods in an informal protocol is optional. Before invoking a method, the calling object checks to see whether the target object implements it. Until optional protocol methods were introduced in Objective-C 2.0, informal protocols were essential to the way Foundation and AppKit classes implemented delegation.