As the cryptocurrency market continues its volatility in 2022, some themes are beginning to emerge. One is that developers are taking the opportunity extremely seriously, building some incredible utilities that could be disruptive in markets ranging from finance to event ticketing. Another is that blockchains are dealing with challenges in scaling and meeting user needs, which is causing headaches in some areas. 

The cryptocurrencies that can deal with both the opportunities and challenges best will be the biggest winners long term. That's why I think Solana (SOL -0.68%), Ethereum (ETH 3.10%), and Polkadot (DOT 0.12%) are the top cryptocurrencies to buy today. 

Cryptocurrencies represented in digital image.

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Solana's calling card

Developers are flocking to the smart-contract-enabled Solana blockchain -- and for good reason. Transactions on Solana cost a fraction of a penny and take only seconds to complete. That compares to Ethereum, which is the largest smart-contract blockchain, which can cost $100 or more for transactions that can take several minutes to complete. 

Low costs allow developers to build products that can disrupt other industries. In the last few weeks, Solana Pay was announced, a transaction system that allows customers to pay merchants with Solana or a stablecoin like USDC -- which is pegged to the U.S. dollar -- on the Solana blockchain. Fees are fractions of a penny, which could threaten expensive financial networks like Visa (V -0.05%) and Mastercard (MA 0.39%) that charge 2% to 3% per transaction. 

Non-fungible tokens (NFT) are also booming on Solana in everything from games to decentralized finance products, allowing developers to fund projects. 

We don't know what developers will build on top of the Solana blockchain, but the possibilities are almost endless, given the low costs and fast transaction speeds, which is a reason to be bullish on Solana cryptocurrency today. 

2. Ethereum is the leader but has a big year ahead

The big money in smart contracts is on Ethereum, which is where NFTs really became popular and companies like Opensea are now processing billions of dollars in NFT sales each month. But Ethereum does face high transaction costs and a relatively slow network because of its proof-of-work structure, which will be a headwind if it isn't improved quickly. 

A series of upgrades are meant to move Ethereum to a lower-cost proof-of-stake protocol, generally known as Ethereum 2.0. If completed as planned, this will cut the cost of Ethereum and improve transaction speed, allowing it to compete better with Solana. And given the financial investment and momentum already behind Ethereum, simply being close in cost and speed may be enough for it to keep the top spot among smart-contract enabled blockchains. 

3. Polkadot's future innovations

The blockchain that connects other blockchains is Polkadot. It can create bridges across other blockchains like Ethereum or parachains, which are independent blockchains living on Polkadot. 

Like Solana, the value of Polkadot isn't what the blockchain itself does but rather what developers do with the blockchain. If they use it to unlock new decentralized apps or bridge from one blockchain to another, the Polkadot token will be used as a key part of the exchange. 

What will be challenging is attracting developers. I mentioned above that Ethereum is arguably the most mature cryptocurrency for developers and Solana is growing quickly. I think Polkadot has a chance to unlock a different layer of development and collaboration with bridges, parachains, and other technologies. That's why this is a top cryptocurrency today. 

A growing industry worth getting behind

We are just starting to see the real-world utility cryptocurrencies can unlock. New payment systems are starting to emerge, NFTs are growing in popularity, and developers are building for the metaverse and other applications every day. I think Solana, Ethereum, and Polkadot will all play a big role in future crypto advances, which is why they're my top cryptocurrencies today.