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Fotofire on Friday: Weekly Review

Another week over! Finish off your working week with our round-up of some of the week's top stories...

Goodbye to Google Reader

Google has announced it is to shut down its Reader service in July this year, as a result of declining user numbers.

In their official blog, Google said: 'There are two simple reasons for this – usage of Google Reader has declined, and as a company we are pouring all of our energy into fewer products.'

Some have said that the decision to close down Reader, which allows users to aggregate and read lots of web content in one place, is indicative of Google's plan to convert more people to its social media service, Google+.

Google Reader was launched in 2005, when Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds became a popular way of keeping tabs on your favourite websites and blogs.

Only a few hours after the announcement, a petition to save the service had collected over 25,000 signatures.

Twitter to launch a music service?

With the trend for digital music growing at a fast pace, Twitter have announced plans to launch a music-specific app later this month, according to a report by CNET.

The app, designed for iOS devices, will allow users to follow their favourite artists and tracks, share recommendations with friends, and follow personal recommendations based on their account. Twitter acquired music discovery service We Are Hunted at the end of 2012, as part of their strategy to refocus on specific media products.

The streaming on the app would be powered by Soundcloud, the Berlin-based music sharing and streaming service. Staff at We Are Hunted have been tweeting tests using the hashtag #nowplaying for the past month. The trial app has included a short tour, links to popular tracks and suggestions, and an emerging artists section. When you follow an artist, the app takes you to their Soundcloud bio and track previews on the iTunes store.

Twitter Music would join a very competitive digital music field, with rivals such as Spotify, last.fm and Deezer.

Facebook make changes to Timeline

Last week we had an update to the Facebook News Feed – and now the social networking giant has announced changes to the Timeline profiles, which are designed to make it easier for users to express what's important to them.

The new-look Timeline will now show posts on the right-hand side with recent activity appearing on the left. Apps will now be more prominent, with the new update giving them their own sections on the left column of the Timeline, and also on the About page.

These new visual sections offer Facebook users an easy way of adding content from other social media sites such as Pinterest, FourSquare and Instagram directly to their Timeline.

The redesigned sections mean that users now have one place to add movies, books, music and TV shows that interest them, complemented by other apps. For example, film fans can add their favourite films to this section and use apps such as Netflix to share what they are watching with their friends.

The changes will be rolled out in the coming weeks.

Samsung take on Apple in smartphone wars

This week in a packed Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan, Samsung unveiled the Galaxy S4, the latest model of their best-selling smartphone, and their latest rival to Apple's iPhone.

The company also unveiled the seriously cool features of the new model, including the 'smart-scroll and smart-pause' technology. The handset has a facing camera which monitors' users eye movements and responds to them. For instance, tilting the phone whilst looking at it will cause web pages to scroll up or down, and videos will pause if the viewer looks away.

Samsung are promoting the new smartphone as 'moving beyond touch'. By simply waving your hand, the phone will move a web page or picture.

The phone can also translate nine languages, from text to speech, speech to text or just text, and , yes, it can also make phone calls and send text messages too!

The model will be available in 125 countries by the end of next month.

Google talking shoes?

So in the last few weeks we've had Google Glasses, the iWatch and a phone which responds to your eye movements. Now, Google has unveiled an unexpected new product; talking shoes.

The Android-connected shoes contain a computer, speaker, accelerometer, gyroscope and a pressure sensor, and are designed to keep the wearer active by giving you information about your movement levels and offering words of encouragement.

For example, positive messages include 'I love the feeling of wind through my laces', or 'Call 911, because you are on fire!'. However, for inactive users, cutting remarks such as 'if standing still was a sport, you'd be the world champion' are offered. (I think I'd be on the receiving end of that last one!)

What do you think of the shoes? Check the video out here.

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