The Arecibo Legacy Fast ALFA (ALFALFA) survey is a second generation blind extragalactic HI survey currently in progess which is exploiting Arecibo's superior sensitivity, angular resolution and digital technology to derive a census of the local HI universe over a cosmologically significant volume. As of the time of this meeting, some 4500 good quality extragalactic HI line sources have been identified in about 15% of the final survey area. ALFALFA is detecting HI masses as low as 106M⊙ and as large as 1010.8M⊙ with positional accuracies typically better than 20″, allowing immediate identification of the most probable optical counterparts. Only 3% of all extragalactic HI sources and less than 1% of detections with MH I > 109.5M⊙ cannot be identified with a stellar component. Because ALFALFA is far from complete, the discussion here focuses on limitations of past surveys that ALFALFA will overcome because of its greater volume, sensitivity and reduced susceptibility to source confusion and on a sampling of illustrative preliminary results. First ALFALFA results already suggest, in agreement with previous studies, that there does not appear to be a cosmologically significant population of optically dark but HI rich galaxies. ALFALFA promises a wealthy dataset for the exploration of many issues in near-field cosmology and galaxy evolution studies, setting the stage for their extension to higher redshifts in the future with the Square Kilometer Array (SKA).