HowRandom launched last year as a way for US students from different colleges to chat to each other anonymously. Now, in one of the most literal pivots I can remember, it’s announced that it’s flipped to enforce a ‘real names only’ policy.

The redesigned service adds user profiles consisting of a profile picture, personal details and interests. An algorithm then matches students to someone with similar interests to chat to. Profile information is displayed for both chatters, in a move to kill off the traditional “A/S/L?” chat conversations.

Co-founder Jon Cook says “The motivation behind the switch really just speaks on evolution and us figuring out what to make of it. HowRandom started out as a pivot from our previous venture and it got a bit of buzz and traction early. It only took us about a week to build and launch the initial version and since then we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about product. Our main focus has been on adding a lot more depth and making it a more engaging experience for our users.”

Cook says that the service has been gaining “a few hundred” student signups per day in the US and expects to hit the 50,000 user mark this week, proving that there might be a market for a text-based version of ChatRoulette. There are currently no plans to extend the services overseas. “There’s definitely a lot of demand for it. We gets lots of emails from students overseas asking when they will get access. The reason we haven’t let them in already is because they don’t use .edu extensions. Most international email extensions aren’t exclusive.”

HowRandom plans to monetize by adding targeted ads over time.

Screen shot 2011 03 11 at 4.32.41 AM 520x210 Hows this for a pivot? Anonymous chat service HowRandom enforces real name policy