Subject The article analyzes the nature and specifics of digital economy as a subject of regulation from the point of view of institutional methodology. Objectives The objectives of the study include classification and substantive characteristics of digital economy evolution, delineation of conceptual approaches to its definition, development of categorical system of digital economy from the perspective of institutional theory, a multilevel analysis of future institutional changes in the digital economy regulation. Methods The study rests on the methodology for institutional and evolutionary analysis. Results We reveal the logic of digital economy evolution and its internal contradictions, perform a comparative analysis of approaches to defining the essence and forms, functions and structure of digital economy, fine-tune and supplement the conceptual framework for the theory of digital economy. The paper presents a conceptual model of multilevel transition of economy to the scenario of digital development, and conceptual recommendations for digital economy regulation. Conclusions It is important to separate digital and digitized areas. It is also reasonable to distinguish between institutional and intracompany digital sectors. Institutional changes should be made in the multilevel format and in the experimental mode (regulatory sandbox, legal foresight, public discussion).
Keywords: digital economy, digitalization, institution, smart contract, smart institution
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