HowRandom Targets College Students With Website For Anonymous Chats

At a time when Facebook ranks as the most-used social networking site on the planet, a couple of young San Diego entrepreneurs are trying to establish their own niche in an expanding universe of social networks, online chat rooms, and Internet forums.

Co-founders Jon Cook and Jason Humphries have created HowRandom as an online forum that automatically—and randomly—pairs college students so they can chat one-on-one without revealing their personal identities. Cook told me before the holidays that he conceived of as a way to help students connect anonymously to exchange ideas without preconceived notions about appearances, social distinctions, and other social conventions they consider distracting. Cook and Humphries also decided against making it possible for HowRandom users to share their photos, video, and other images.

In other words, HowRandom is a kind of anti-Facebook. The system links together college-age strangers in a secure environment (where protecting privacy appears to be a priority) where they exchange simple text chat messages. All chat information remains private between the two participants, with their respective college or university affiliations being the only identifiers. No information, pictures, or images gets shared beyond that.

Cook, however, says he doesn’t see HowRandom as an anti-Facebook. “I don’t think of HowRandom as a social network,” Cook says. “I think of it as a platform to meet random people. But it’s not a way to keep in touch with your friends. Facebook is a way to keep in touch with your friends. But you can’t make random connections on Facebook.”

Cook said it took the young San Diego entrepreneurs only a few weeks to develop the site, and they have no investors. “We’re just working out of our home. We haven’t spent any money on HowRandom yet.”

Two weeks after taking … Next Page »

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Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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